Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes: annex 9


ANNEX 9: CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS

The purpose of this Annex is to continue to build understanding of climate change impacts and advance the integration of this knowledge into Great Lakes adaptation strategies and management actions.

Climate change impacts are being observed in the Great Lakes. Some of the most evident impacts include warmer water, changing precipitation patterns, decreased ice coverage and increased lake evaporation.

Climate change can also affect physical, chemical and biological processes in the Great Lakes. For example, warmer water temperatures can result in increased algal blooms, changes to the rates of biological productivity, and effects on water quality; extremes in water levels pose significant risks to the Great Lakes including implications for water quality and ecosystem functions (see also the Nutrients and Lakewide Management Annexes); changes in precipitation patterns may affect shoreline processes and increase the concentration of nutrients, which may in turn increase harmful and nuisance algal blooms; and native fish and wildlife habitats, populations and diversity may be affected by changes to ecosystem functions and by new or expanded ranges of invasive species (see also the Aquatic Invasive Species Annex).

This Annex contains commitments that will improve our understanding of the effects of climate change on Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health. Existing and future climate change impacts and vulnerabilities will be assessed in order to inform management plans and strategies and to help communities take actions to increase ecosystem resiliency to a changing climate. This Annex also outlines commitments that support communities in being better prepared to take action on climate change impacts and adaptation.

Goal 1: Enhance knowledge of existing and future impacts of climate change in relation to the Great Lakes.

Result 1.1 - Improved understanding of climate change impacts in the Great Lakes.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Maintain the monitoring of Great Lakes water level and streamflow predictions, via the cost-shared Ontario Hydrometric Network and binational work with United States agencies and States.

Canada will:

  • (b) Maintain the monitoring of climate and weather variables, such as wind, temperature, precipitation, evaporation, wave height, water temperature, and ice cover;

  • (c) Carry out research and modeling, and collaborate with others to improve regional scale climate model projections of climate change elements such as air and water temperature, wind speeds, ice, humidity, streamflow, precipitation frequency, duration and intensity, seasonal shifts, etc., where feasible; and

  • (d) Improve understanding of climate trends and variations and their effects on physical, chemical and biological processes affecting the Great Lakes.

Ontario will lead, with Canada’s support:

  • (e) Ongoing operations of existing integrated monitoring stations.

Ontario will:

  • (f) Maintain the Provincial (Stream) Water Quality Monitoring Network for streams in the Great Lakes basin.

Goal 2: Share information about climate change impacts, advance the integration of this information into Great Lakes management strategies and promote adaptation actions.

Result 2.1 - Assessment of existing and future climate change impacts and vulnerabilities of the Great Lakes to inform adaptive management actions.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Consider climate change impacts and changing climatic conditions in the development of management strategies and action plans under the Agreement; and

  • (b) Provide support for the development and implementation of regional Great Lakes adaptive management initiatives and pilot projects with a focus on impacts to Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health, including initiatives related to lake level uncertainties, vulnerabilities and risks.

Canada will:

  • (c) Improve regional scale models and analytical tools (e.g., Intensity Duration and Frequency or IDF curves) in order to increase understanding of the risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities associated with climate change impacts to the Great Lakes.

  • (d) Complete risk analyses of the effects of projected changes in climate on elements of aquatic ecosystems to identify and describe ecosystem vulnerabilities and opportunities.

Result 2.2 - Provision of climate change information to the Great Lakes community, including decision-makers and resource managers.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Share climate and climate change impact-related data and information, including regional scale climate model outputs and research results, having implications for climate change impacts on Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health with Great Lakes agencies, organizations and communities;

  • (b) Communicate ongoing developments in science, strategies and actions to address climate change impacts within the Great Lakes; and

  • (c) Share data and expertise on water levels and water budgets of the Great Lakes, where feasible, as they relate to Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health in order to promote the understanding of the impacts of climate change and advance action on climate change adaptation.

Result 2.3 - Communities are better prepared to take action on climate change impacts and adaptation.

Ontario will:

  • (a) Work with others to promote the use of adaptive management tools that consider climate change impacts in the Great Lakes basin;

  • (b) Conduct a pilot vulnerability assessment of the impacts of climate change on a municipal water treatment plant in southern Ontario;

  • (c) Undertake an economic study to identify and quantify the economic impacts (including both challenges and opportunities) of climate change;

  • (d) Continue to implement adaptation actions important to communities across the province, including:
    1. Building climate change adaptation into infrastructure planning processes;
    2. Completing guidance for integrating climate change impacts into the Environmental Assessment process;
    3. Continuing to share best practices and lessons learned with communities to promote water conservation;
    4. Continuing to provide community outreach and training to practitioners; and
    5. Continuing to raise awareness with public health units and others about health risk factors associated with climate change.
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