Great Lakes Ontario Property

Great Lakes Communities and Ecosystems at RiskThe Regionspacer
Confront the Challenge
• Climate in the Region
• The Report
• Technical Background
• For Teachers

Explore the Impacts
• Overview
• Migrating Climates
• Water Resources
• Sense of Place

Discover the Solutions
• Overview
• Solutions where we Live
• Reducing our Emissions
• Managing our Response
• Ten Personal Solutions

spacer spacer
Climate Change in Ontario
White Trilliun
Climate Projections
Forests & Wildlife
Human Health
Lakes, Streams, & Fish
Property and Infrastructure
Recreation & Tourism
Water Supply & Pollution
Wetlands & Shorebirds
Climate Solutions
Resources & Links

Climate Change Impacts:
Property and Infrastructure

Cities—where 80% of Ontarians live—and other heavily developed areas are particularly vulnerable to the risks of climate change. This vulnerability is a result of a unique combination of exposure and sensitivity to a changing climate, and the ability of populations to adapt to these changes.

By definition, cities are characterized by a large concentration of infrastructure, buildings, and people. As a result, all these people and structures are exposed to the impacts of climate change. Older buildings and infrastructure, which were built under less stringent building codes, are typically less resistant to extreme weather events, such as extreme heat periods or precipitation and flooding events. The ability of property owners, municipal managers, and city dwellers to adapt to a changing climate largely depends on the financial resources available to them. The costs of adapting will rise with the magnitude of climate change, straining the resources of the many segments of society and municipalities. Among the potential impacts with implication's for property and infrastructure in Ontario are:

  • Increased Frequency of Heavy Rainstorms
    Climate change models for the Great Lakes region project an increase in the frequency of heavy rainstorms—both 24-hour and multiday—over the course of the century. More frequent heavy rainstorms will likely lead to more floods, exacerbated by stream channeling and more paved surfaces. This could result in greater property damage, place heavier burdens on emergency management, increase cleanup and rebuilding costs, and exact a financial toll on businesses and homeowners.

  • Increased Frequency of Flooding
    An increase in the frequency of storms, and flooding in particular, could overwhelm municipal water-related infrastructure. Therefore, municipalities in Ontario will have to upgrade water-related infrastructure—including levies, sewer pipes, and wastewater treatment plants—in anticipation of a changing climate.

  • Decreased Lake Levels
    Shipping along the SeawayDespite more frequent heavy rain events, lake levels are expected to drop due to higher rates of evaporation. Lower lake levels will have costly implications for shipping and other economic activities on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. A drop in levels would require more frequent dredging of channels and harbors, as well as the adjustment of docks, water intake pipes, and other infrastructure. On the other hand, a longer ice-free season will extend the shipping season.

  • A Reduction in Hydropower Generation
    Niagara FallsReduced water flow and levels is likely to lead to a reduction of hydropower generation in the Great Lakes region—by a conservative estimate of 15% by 2050. Dropping lake levels could profoundly affect electricity generation in Ontario, where hydropower provides one quarter of the overall electricity supply.

Photo Credits:
White Trillium -- Ohio Department of Natural Rescources, Mike Williams and Tim Daniel.
Shipping along the seaway -- David Riecks (Courtesy of Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant).
Niagara Falls -- Courtesy of the Center for Great Lakes and Aquatic Sciences
spacer spacer
Survey the Region
• Overview
• Illinois
• Indiana
• Michigan
• Minnesota
• New York
• Ohio
• Ontario
• Pennsylvania
• Wisconsin

We Need Your Support
to Make Change Happen

We can reduce global warming emissions and ensure communities have the resources they need to withstand the effects of climate change—but not without you. Your generous support helps develop science-based solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.