Durham Climate change symposium held in Scugog

Durham Climate Change Symposium, February 9th 2018 in Port Perry

by Director Research, Scugog Lake Stewards Inc., Dr. Ron Porter

The Stewards received an invitation from the Regional Municipality of Durham to attend this meeting and I attended on our behalf. It followed previous meetings resulting in detailed publications on the substance and response by the Region to Climate Change. The excellence of these publications has led to their being widely used and followed by diverse countries, provinces, municipalities and metropolitan groups in planning their individual responses to the problem of Climate Change in the next 100 years.

The attendees were a diverse group but included 5 Mayors and their Directors, 7 farmers , University lecturers and myriad politicians. Our mayor was in attendance as was Ms Drew. I refer you to “Towards Resilience” published by the Durham Region Roundtable on Climate Change subcommittee in 2016, which is the essence of the Durham approach to the gathering storm.

James Nowlan Director Climate Change MOECC, opened the sessions with a lecture on “Warmer, Wetter, Wilder” what we will come to live with in the  future. When he quoted a summer temperature of 54F within 15 years I was stunned and worried. He discussed more frequent and heavy flooding, ice-storms, droughts, wild fires, failure of infrastructure which has not been built for these extremes, diseases arriving in areas of the world where they do not exist at present and ice roads which make arctic communities accessible at present, vanishing. Ontario with its Cap and Trade tax came up with the suggestion that the $ from this tax be returned to the community in community mitigation efforts to respond to climate change. The monies will go toward a new climate change organization, determination of the Provincial vulnerability to climate change, governance, and public awareness such as energy saving, flood protection and in a final Action Plan an attempt to make everyone aware of what is happening and how to adapt to the changes. 1.8 billion$ will be available for the entrepreneurial efforts it will take to mitigate the effects of CC( climate change), in Ontario.

Brian Kelly, Manager, Sustainability, Durham Region is a cracker jack. He is a provincial leader in understanding and responding to CC and has his foot in every pie involved in the process. He gives one great confidence in his ability to understand and lead Durham in its response to the problem. We should have him speak to Scugog Lake Stewards Board in the future. He believes that the Ontario government have a weak approach to Adaptation but strong response to provincial Mitigation. Durham, through the Toward Resilience approach have both a strong Adaptation plan and strong Mitigation plan through Community efforts. These are aimed at positively affecting and protecting our Economy, Public Health and Infrastructure.  The Durham Adaptability Plan is five years ahead of anything else available world wide making us a recognized leader in the field.  Constant Adaptation will be needed throughout the next 100 years as CC is not going away.

Faye Langmaid, Manager Special projects, Mun. of Clarington discussed efforts underway to move nuclear contaminated soils from Port Hope and its environs.  The soils are being moved to Federal land sites for burial and she detailed the community efforts to ensure that tree plantations not buildings and homes will be erected at these sites.

Perry Sissons of Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority gave an intriguing outline of their efforts presently underway to determine, map and respond to those flood plains where disasters could occur in the near future. The Oshawa Mall for instance is built on a large flood plain and a prime example of a future disaster site if efforts underway are not completed in time. Major flooding is on the rise and we have examples in Durham and Ontario of sudden flash floods which have led to serious problems. This will become more frequent. The Insurance Industry is a prime mover in mitigation discussions to avoid rate hikes and payouts in the years ahead. There are 92 major flood plains in Durham.

In contrast he discussed years like 2016 when after a short dry winter we had a blistering hot summer. Dry aquafers  and no rain led to dry wells and drought conditions. In 2017 after a winter of heavy snows, early ice out and torrential rains in Spring and early Summer we has flood conditions. This sequence will be repeated frequently and dangerously in future. The prospect of lake Ontario in flood may become the future as flood gates higher up the St Lawrence cannot be simply opened to control the situation as flooding in Quebec would  be the consequence. Pop-up floods are on the way and we must adapt to the situation. It was good to hear that the widespread appearance of Phragmites in provincial ditches and wetlands will not lead to further flooding.

Al Douglas Director of the Ontario Centre for Climate Impacts and Adaptation Resources opened his talk with the statement that at the Davos meetings this year, CC was agreed by delegates to be the greatest threat  to the global economy in the future. CC leading to extreme weather conditions, storms, cyclones, extensive flooding, and natural disasters will follow failure to adapt to the changing world climate. He presented data on the expansion in growing days for crops to as much as an additional month each year which statistically could allow a 41% increase yield in crop plants. Research in water management, soil health and plant adaptive measures must be underway to meet the demands of the changes discussed above.  He referred us to “www.climateontario.ca” to learn what is underway.

Steve Auger and Brook Piotrowski of Lake Simcoe Conservation discussed the programme underway in Stormwater Management in the ecosystem. 30% of the phosphorus entering the lake is from urban sources They have developed a LID (low impact development) program for the ecosystem which is a highly complex collaboration where they have trained urban and rural communities, developers, planners and engineers involved in building the stuctural changes to urban culverts, and rural rivers and streams entering the lake. The work involves bioregulation through erosion and sediment control on a widespread basis like myriad small Lake Scugog Enhancement Projects.

Ian McDonald and Matt  Porter both farmers and lecturers at AG. Colleges discussed the amazing technological  changed in farming which have occurred in recent years. From the hands-off milk farmer to the tractor which runs itself while testing the soil for content which may or may not require water, nutrients and fertilizer, to seed densities dependant on automatically assessing field conditions which lend themselves to maximum yield when tweaked by the electronics which now run crop farming. I was amazed as it is all a little far fetched but necessary in this age of CC and the rapidly changing environment in which the farmer has to work and make a profit.

Our last discussant Dave Pridham of Kawartha Conservation brought us back to reality. Dave discussed the work of  KWA in determining the health of ecosystems, their culverts, streams and rivers , the rising temperatures of the waters, the relative droughts in these streams and rivers as changing climate affects snowfalls, heavy rains, rapidly rising summer temperatures and droughts or flooding the result of the admixture of changes. Adapting to flooding with a Level 1 to 3 system allows municipalities and landowners close to rivers, streams and lakes to respond in a predetermined, regulated sequence to these changing conditions.

This was an alarming series of lectures when it comes to what it is believed we are moving into in the years ahead but we, in Durham, have a number of highly skilled  politicians, their various departments, municipal officers and academics who are keenly aware of how we must adapt to mitigate the effects of the problems ahead. And they have programs underway to teach us how to live in the new world, how to adapt our homes to CC, how to keep our roofs in place and water from our basements.


Ron Porter 10th February 2018.