toronto vital signs

Here's how climate change is already affecting Toronto

There's no question that Toronto has already been heavily impacted by the growing effects of climate change, and the new Toronto Vital Signs report proves it.

The Toronto Foundation's 17th annual Toronto's Vital Signs report features in-depth research on areas including income inequality, housing, education, culture, health, safety and more. 

There's also an extensive section on the environment, and it emphasizes how Toronto is being impacted by climate change and the efforts the city is taking to address it. 

One of the report's major points is that we're seeing an increase in heavy precipitation, and therefore experiencing an inevitable uptick in flooding. 

From 1976 to 2005, Toronto experienced about 6.6 heavy precipitation days (20 mm or more).

That number is expected to rise to 6.9 between 2021 and 2050, and then again to 7.8 from 2051 to 2080.

"Severe storms are on the rise, and the annual cost of weather disasters has increased more than fourfold in the last decade versus the previous 30 years, with half of that increase due to flooding," the report states. 

"While only 21 per cent of homeowners believe the risk of flooding will increase, insurance data is showing us that floods are becoming far more expensive."

The cost of a flood can be devastating for a homeowner, as most Canadian's don't have flood insurance and the average flood costs about $43,000. 

Increased flooding also poses a huge risk for those living in basement apartments.

The report puts the number of secondary suites in Toronto at approximately 70,000 to 100,000 units, and the most recent major review of secondary suites found that 74 per cent of them were basement units.

And Toronto weather isn't just getting wetter, it's also getting hotter. 

According to the research, "in the immediate future, Toronto is projected to have more than 2.5 times the extreme hot days per year as it has now, while in the more distant future it is expected to have 4.5 times more hot days per year."

Extremely hot weather poses health and safety risks to Toronto's more vulnerable communities, including those who live in older high-rise towers without central air conditioning.

"In these older buildings, where rent is far more affordable, almost half of the people live in poverty... The consequences of this excessive heat for those living in apartments include trouble sleeping (62 per cent), feeling exhausted (50 per cent), headaches (37 per cent), and feeling nauseous (25 per cent)."

An average of 120 people have historically died each year during heat waves in Toronto. But if the number of extremely hot days continues to increase, that number could potentially see a rise as well. 

Fortunately, the report also highlights what the City of Toronto is doing to combat these pressing issues, including the Port Lands Flood Protection Project and the fact that Toronto has actually made progress reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

"Much of Toronto’s progress so far has been based on one extremely successful initiative: phasing out coal-fired electricity, which was carried out by the province," according to the report. 

Air quality and water quality have also both improved in Toronto over the past few years.

But the report also makes it clear that if we want to achieve our newly-implemented and ambitious carbon emissions targets, more still needs to be done in the areas of transportation, construction, waste, retrofitting buildings and renewable energy.

Lead photo by

Andy Barrow

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