Climate change close to home

Photo Credit: Zoe Archambault

Photo Credit: Zoe Archambault

How is the Niagara region combating one of the defining issues of our time: climate change? The Niagara Adapts: Contending with Climate Change presentation that took place during this year’s Celebration of Nations sought to answer this question.

This year, the underlying subject of Celebration of Nations was sustainability and environmentalism, reflected in the gathering’s theme: Empathic Traditions — Honouring Mother Earth. Niagara Adapts’ goal of combating climate change managed to fit right in with this theme, as the discussion spoke to the importance of preserving the natural environment.

Celebration of Nations showcased this such that the community became aware of the Indigenous land they were gathering on and the future steps needed to preserve the area.

Niagara Adapts is a coalition between seven Niagara municipalities concerned with climate change planning in the region. The presentation allowed each municipality to voice their concerns and search for the next steps to combat climate change. Dr. Jessica Blythe, Assistant Professor at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, was the host and moderator of this hot-topic event.

Professional Engineer Marvin Ingebrigtsen represented the City of Welland. Ingebrigtsen claimed that Welland’s flat topography offers one of the top challenges for the municipality. He plans to combat flooding by updating storm sewer design and conducting benefit assessments of the project. Additionally, to help redirect watersheds in the area, municipal standards and stormwater management facilities are getting updated.

Shannon Fernandes, Lincoln’s Climate Change Coordinator, discussed how Lincoln has experienced two voluntary evacuations in recent years due to flooding as a result of the increased levels of Lake Ontario. They hope Niagara Adapts will aid in shoreline protection studies and water conservation to ensure the safety of the residents of Lincoln.

Mark Green, Manager of Environmental Services at the City of St. Catharines, said that the most pressing concerns for St. Catharines are basement flooding, high winds, extreme cold, droughts and the rising level of Lake Ontario. Green called the effects of global warming “unprecedented” in the area, from over 400 fallen trees in 2011 to a fire ban in 2016. In April 2019, he declared an official climate emergency, making the urgency of global warming more tangible to residents. Actions have backed up Green’s commitment to combating climate change and since 2011, St. Catharines has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent. Green hopes to continue on this path through Niagara Adapts by collaboration, sharing best practices and using unified approaches.

Lastly, Deanna Allen, the Climate Change Coordinator for the Town of Pelham spoke of Pelham’s main concerns resulting from climate change: windstorms and a gypsy moth infestation that affected wildlife in the area and resulted in costly repairs. Pelham hopes to spread awareness by offering supporting documentation and proposing a timeline.

There was no concrete outcome to the discussion, but much important discussion on how climate change is affecting the region and some hope that local communities can plan and adapt. Unity among the coalition was evident. This forum was a comprehensive presentation of how climate change affects the Niagara region as a whole.

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