As the winter season winds down, you may find yourself questioning if it ever really came in the first place. March 21st will mark the end of what some are calling the winter that never was.

There has been a lot of chatter across the country about this unusually warm and variable season, but how does this unseasonable winter fit within a larger trend of climate change, and what does it mean for Waterloo Region?

Like me, I’m sure many of you have missed the outdoor rinks in parks and backyards – some have even said that climate change signals the death of these Canadian hallmarks. As with any changing scenario, there are winners and losers.  Municipalities have saved on their snow removal and salting budgets; however, those that make a living doing private snow removal haven’t been so lucky.  Ski resorts and snowmobile trails have struggled with the lack of consistent snowfall and frequent melts, but on the other hand, these same trends have allowed golf courses to remain open for a longer season. Wild deer are plump and healthy as the conditions have made it easier for them to forage for food, while migratory birds are confused as to when they should be coming or going, and some decided not to leave at all.

This warm winter is part of a decade- and century-long trend of a changing climate – a story which climate scientists tell us by the numbers:

As we move towards the reality of living in a changing climate, we must both continue to work towards the mitigation of any further climate change (by curbing greenhouse gas emissions, for one) as well as prepare for the inevitable changes and extreme weather events that will occur through the use of adaptation measures (a topic worthy of its own future blog).

What can we, as a community, do here in Waterloo Region to slow the climate change trend?

We can act locally – Although climate change is a global issue, it is well recognized that communities and municipalities have a unique and important role to play. For example, municipal governments currently have direct or indirect control over approximately 44 per cent of greenhouse emissions in Canada, through their influence over urban spatial and economic components including building construction and energy efficiency, local land use and transportation patterns, and economic development.  While national and global efforts on climate change have stalled in recent years, momentum is gaining through both grassroots and municipal-led local action that is producing measureable results.

We can support municipal leadership– Here in Waterloo Region, local municipalities are making progress towards reducing their own emissions. As Regional Carbon Initiative members, the City of Kitchener, City of Waterloo and Region of Waterloo are using the support provided by Sustainable Waterloo Region to create thorough GHG inventory and action plans to reach a practical reduction target that balances environmental and financial responsibility with community need. The City of Cambridge is addressing GHG reduction within their Corporate Sustainability Plan.

We can work together – Of course not one of us alone can solve the climate challenge, but an entire community working together?  There’s a lot of power in that. In an example of collective leadership, The Climate Collaborative is a partnership between Sustainable Waterloo Region, REEP Green Solutions and the Region of Waterloo, as well as area municipalities and local electric and natural gas utilities. By June of 2012, we will complete a community GHG emissions inventory and 10-year forecast that will show us how local emissions are produced through energy use, transportation, waste and agricultural activities in Waterloo Region. Based on those numbers, we’ll see where the greatest opportunities lie for making carbon reductions in this community, and ask you (yes, you!) to help identify what actions we can take to achieve those reductions.

How has your life been affected during this strange winter?  Likely you’ve enjoyed a break from shovelling the driveway, perhaps you’ve retrieved your bike out of storage earlier than normal, and maybe you’re even disappointed that our generation won’t have the same chance of producing the next Gretzky on backyard rinks. Given the myriad of reactions to this warm winter, I can’t help but wonder if we will look back and remember this as “the winter of 2012 that never was”, or will we come to know this as part of an ongoing trend that will continue to change the way we live our lives?


3 thoughts on “The Winter that Never Was

  1. Thomas Ostapchuk says:

    Canada and the US aren’t the only places that are seeing strange weather patterns and coming to climate change realizations, in my recent trip to Aruba (the island which supposedly never rains) the locals are having the same conversations. There have been years in Aruba where it hasn’t rained a drop and that was the norm. This past year (our Canadian winter), the island received 7 straight months of a “rainy season.” Unfourtunately, their residents have very little concept of carbon efficiency or sustainable development.

  2. David Schlievert says:

    They who ever they are didn’t spend as much time out of doors as I did. I mean cold is cold. Though it is true this years winter seemed like a cold extended fall season at best, did happen. Now tis true that I only had to suit up in heavy over pants a few times in comparison to previous winters, so I could walk the dog or conduct business on a daily basis, but I was still wearing long johns. Not every winter around here at least needs a high temp of a week to ten frigid days of -25C during the day to be winter and snow being fickle isn’t a measure of winter.

    Personally I think that the heaters and furnaces everywhere were on to high a setting. Meaning walking through the mall and seeing everyone carrying their winter jackets and sales clerks not even needing to wear sweaters while at work in these stores, says a great deal. Climate change is in the big picture but so to is social change and well to keep it short change is the only constant on this planet…

    All the best and yes i am hoping my lawn and those of my neighbors won’t brown off again this summer.

    Dave at EQ

  3. Pingback: A Sum Greater than all of its Parts — Sustainable Waterloo Region

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