Warmer winter, less snow heighten climate change concerns in Mississauga

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Published January 11, 2024 at 11:08 am

Warmer winters in Mississauga spark climate change concerens

Most people likely welcome the milder winter that has so far produced much less snow than usual, but Mississauga officials are growing increasingly concerned about what it means in terms of climate change locally, across Canada and around the globe.

“Hotter, wetter and more extreme weather events are predicted for Mississauga in the near future,” City of Mississauga officials said in a news release this week that outlined their concerns, similar to those expressed by numerous cities worldwide.

“Have you noticed that this winter is more mild than usual with minimal snow? Although the presence of a strong El Niño is one of the reasons for the warm winter, climate change is another significant factor causing the shift in temperatures. Climate change is causing milder winter temperatures across the country.”

Officials say that, in 2023, Mississauga saw a warmer spring, a hotter summer that was also affected by smoke from raging wildfires across the country, milder average temperatures in the fall and a warmer start to winter that included minimal snow.

Pointing to the United Nations’ State of the Global Climate Report, Mississauga officials note that the past nine years (2014-2023) have been the warmest on record and that compared to other countries, Canada is warming twice as fast.

Environment and Climate Change Canada predicts a 50 to 60 per cent chance of above-normal temperatures from January through March of 2024.

“Every degree of temperature change, even one degree warmer, can impact our environment significantly. This could mean more flooding, wildfires or intense heat waves,” Mississauga officials said.

“The impacts of warmer winters and higher-than-average annual temperatures are significant. Snow acts as insulation, helping to protect plants and animals from the cold temperatures. Melted snow also provides plants with water and replenishes streams and rivers. However, if the snow melts too quickly, it can cause flooding and erosion.”

Additionally, officials note, soil also tends to stay warmer and wetter when there is less snow.

“This leads to the soil thawing earlier than usual, which can trigger premature growth in plants. Although this may not seem like a big deal, plants may start to grow too early and be vulnerable to late frosts and freezes, which can damage or kill them. This can have a ripple effect throughout the ecosystem, as many animals rely on these plants for food and shelter. This can lead to crop failure and affect our farming and food supply.”

Change in climate can also strengthen invasive plants and animals while weakening native species, officials say, which “may threaten the biodiversity and wildlife in Mississauga.”

Further down the road, officials say climate projections for Mississauga — and across Canada and the world — aren’t encouraging.

“Temperatures are trending warmer across all seasons. The average annual temperature is expected to increase by 3.4 degrees Celsius in the 2050s and 5.7 degrees Celsius in the 2080s,” officials say. “Rainfall is also expected to increase in volume and intensity, with more frequent and intense precipitation. Projections also include hotter summers, a decrease in snow during winter and the timing of seasons is expected to shift. Extreme events like lightning and thunderstorms, snowstorms, freezing rain, hail, powerful winds, droughts, wildfires, flooding and storm surges are expected to become more intense due to a warmer and hotter future climate.”

In the face of such “alarming projections,” Mississauga officials say everyone must take steps to reduce carbon emissions and adopt sustainable practices to mitigate the effects of climate change.

“Each of us has the power to turn things around with the choices we make to reduce our carbon footprint. Making informed choices is more important now than ever. Actions you take now can impact future generations, including your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” city officials say.

Such actions include switching to electric vehicles, using electric heat pumps for heating and cooling, using sustainable transportation like walking, biking or public transit, reducing your waste, shopping locally and eating more plant-based foods, officials suggest.

The City of Mississauga says 44 per cent of its budgeted projects this year will have some aspect of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“These projects will include hybrid buses, park acquisitions, electric vehicle charging stations, bike lanes, sidewalks, buildings with solar panels, and more,” officials say. “This capital spending of almost $263 million will help advance Mississauga’s goal of achieving net zero (emissions).”

In addition, the city says it’s working with different levels of government, corporations, non-profit organizations, community partners and residents to mitigate climate change.

“These investments will lead to cleaner air, less traffic and healthier neighbourhoods,” city officials predict.

In December 2022, Mayor Bonnie Crombie spoke about the importance of efforts to curb climate change, saying Mississauga must accelerate efforts to decrease its carbon footprint or face devastating consequences down the road that will include more severe and frequent storms and flooding.

“The impacts of climate change can be felt in Mississauga and we’ve already seen warmer temperatures, extreme storm events and increased flooding right in our own backyard,” she said at the time.

Earlier in 2022, a climate change report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sounded the alarm on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.

In essence, it said communities around the world including Mississauga and Brampton are looking at a dramatic increase in the number of extreme heat days in the near future.

“Mississauga is vulnerable to climate change, and time is not on our side. We have witnessed more extreme and frequent climate-related events in the last several years. If we don’t take action now, things will only worsen,” Jodi Robillos, the city’s commissioner of community services, said at the time.

In 2019, the City of Mississauga declared a climate emergency because climate change is taking a toll on people, health, infrastructure, services and ecosystems, officials said.

Mississauga’s 10-year Climate Change Action Plan was endorsed by City council in 2019 and sets out to decrease the city’s carbon footprint and prepare for the effects of a changing climate.

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