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New atlas shows projected impact of climate change across Canada’s major cities

The Climate Atlas of Canada is an interactive website that allows Canadians to explore the impact of global warming in their towns or cities.

Climate Atlas of Canada/Climate Atlas of Canada

Toronto is expected to have more than 100 searing-hot days a year in the coming decades if it doesn’t reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new mapping project released by the University of Winnipeg’s Prairie Climate Centre.

The projected temperature changes are part of a series of reports issued Wednesday in the Climate Atlas of Canada – an interactive website that allows Canadians to explore the impact of global warming in their towns or cities.

“Climate science has been something that has been inaccessible to Canadians. They hear about it in this top-down kind of way that the climate is changing and they haven’t been given the tools to see it,” said Dr. Ian Mauro, co-director of the project.

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The atlas contains reports summarizing projected climate change across Canada’s major cities. The data allow users to compare temperature changes from the past (1976-2005) with the future (2051-2080) for both high- and low-carbon scenarios.

University of Winnipeg president and vice-chancellor Dr. Annette Trimbee said she believes the atlas will get used because it shows people what will happen in their own backyards.

The 250-layer interactive map is based on data from 12 global climate modules. It contains data for about 2,000 regions across Canada and includes 25 climate variables that fall under hot weather, cold weather, temperature, precipitation and growing season.

One of those variables is summer days and Toronto is projected to have the highest number.

The average number of days per year with temperatures above 25 C in Toronto was 64 in the recent past. That number is projected to go up to 100 with a low-carbon scenario and 114 with a high-carbon scenario.

But Toronto isn’t the only city that is set to be affected by the changing climate. The data show that even historically cooler cities will have to start coping with dangerous heat for the first time.

“We’ve got a big problem,” Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna said at the launch event at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Climate change is having a real impact on people, on communities, on culture and it’s across the country. It’s forest fires that we saw in Fort McMurray and British Columbia, it’s flooding that we’ve seen in Eastern Ontario and Quebec.”

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But the greatest impact of climate change is on Indigenous communities, she added.

She recalled a young Inuit boy coming up to her and telling her that “Two of [his] friends’ dads disappeared through the ice. They’re hunters … and they used to be able to tell the thickness of the ice but because of climate change they can’t and they’re literally falling through the ice.”

The atlas includes documentaries on how climate change is affecting regions across the country and the solutions some communities have developed in response.

Some of the videos include TransformTO, Toronto’s climate action plan; Green Arrow, Canada’s first Indigenous-owned and community-operated solar energy company; and GabEnergy, Gabriola Island’s non-profit society for affordable solar energy systems.

“It makes climate change meaningful at the scale that people are living in,” said Dr. Mauro. “In a way that ideally takes them from learning about the issue to acting on that issue.”

The atlas is free and bilingual and Dr. Mauro said his team will be adding new topics on the website. Coming topics include Indigenous knowledge, agriculture and forestry.

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He added that they will also be adding data from the Northwest Territories and Yukon in the next year.

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