Climate change and Toronto’s record-breaking summer

How climate change led to sweltering heat last summer

Hand adjusting thermostat.
Many Canadians were turning down the thermostat this summer. Ahmed Dirie/Toronto Observer

If you were cranking up the air conditioner or avoiding going outside at all in Toronto this summer you weren’t alone.

Toronto broke a 80-year-old heat record in July. In fact, much of North America was in the midst of a heat wave from late June to early July.

It culminated with Environment Canada issuing a heat warning in August.

COVID-19 and the ban on indoor gatherings only added to the problem, according to Keshev Gaur, a 24-year-old lifeguard.

“It was too hot to go the beach or an outdoor pool,” said Gaur. “And indoor pools were closed most of the summer.”

Indoor pools were permitted to open near the end of July.

“[This past summer] sucked,” Gaur said. “I love being a life guard and seeing people in the water. Using the pool to dodge the heat is summer tradition and and especially this summer I really missed that.”

The bugs’ view

It may have been too hot to enjoy the outdoors but insects found the temperature just fine, according to Jocelyn Martel, associate professor of biology at York University.

“Insects are generally quite sensitive to changes in temperature in their environment,” Martel said. “Their activity levels, which may include feeding on tree leaves and reproduction, can be increased by even slightly elevated temperatures.”

More insects means more plants are eaten by them, which is a problem as plants help remove carbon dioxide, the most dangerous of the greenhouse gasses.

“This is especially true when we consider the increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere that are responsible for a warming climate,” Martel said.

Climate change isn’t just about rising temperatures and drought like conditions in certain places, it may have led to an increase in storms and other instances of inclement weather, according to the Weather Network.

Hurricane Ida, which devastated Louisiana, flooded New York, and left a trail of destruction in between in August, was attributed to climate change. The effects of Ida were felt as far as Canada with Quebec and the Maritimes experiencing heavy rainfall.

Crops have also been affected by the change in temperature and rainfall. Coffee enthusiasts worldwide could soon feel the effects of climate change, if they haven’t already.

“Arabica beans are especially sensitive to climate change,” Martel said. “They grow in very particular conditions that are being threatened.”

Higher temperature, inconsistent rain, and more pests could interrupt the supply of the beans and the quality and taste of your coffee, according to a BBC article.

Climate change deniers

Toronto’s battle against climate change is about more than greenhouse gasses and protests.

We all need to work together to combat climate change but the first thing that needs to change is the discourse around climate change and climate change deniers, according to Dr. Chui-Ling Tam, associate professor of geography at the University of Calgary.

“Demonizing people that deny climate change only makes them more obstinate,” Tam said.

Reversing the effects of climate change needs to be a team effort according to Tam.

“It will take all of us to mitigate climate change,” said Tam. “It may already be too late, and fighting each other is wasting time we don’t have.”

About this article

Posted: Oct 15 2021 6:49 pm
Filed under: News