Decade in review: The climate crisis arrives on Toronto’s shores

Over the last decade, severe flooding has become the norm

In May 2017, a mix of torrential rainstorms and record runoff around the Great Lakes caused Lake Ontario water levels to raise a metre above normal, the highest it had been in 100 years. Floodwaters overwhelmed Toronto Islands, where ducks swam in newly formed ponds on front lawns and fish flopped in the waterlogged roads. The flood closed the islands to the public for three months and cost the city at least $8.45 million.

Over the last decade, severe flooding has become the norm in Toronto. In July 2013, drivers on flooded streets ditched their cars for higher ground, including a $200,000 silver Ferrari stuck under a swamped underpass. In August 2018, a “ninja storm” – named for their sudden appearance – slammed parts of Toronto, nearly drowning two men stuck in an elevator.

The climate crisis is not only lapping at Toronto’s shores – it’s flooding our basements and turning our streets into rivers.

While the city is getting wetter, it’s also getting hotter. Toronto will have 2.5 times more extreme hot days per year as there is now.

But it’s not too late to improve our prospects. Earlier this year, the city released its first ever resilience strategy, an action plan that includes flood-mitigation programs and building a sustainable food system. The city is also making strides toward its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thanks to the former provincial government’s shut-down of Ontario’s coal-fired power plants.

Most of the inspiring change is happening at the grassroots level, like the neighbourhood groups that are working toward ending plastic waste and youth-led climate actions. But the next decade needs to be defined by political will.  


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