Toronto Life




IN A CLIMATE-RAVAGED future, Toronto’s northern latitude, weather-moderating lakes and abundance of fresh water could make it a haven for climate refugees. The downside to becoming a (relatively) soft place to land is that the already dire state of our housing, infrastruc­ture and transit will likely crater as demand skyrockets.

“The biggest risk is being unprepared for growth,” says Jason Thistlethw­aite, a professor at the University of Waterloo who researches the economic effects of climate change. Doubling down on our current mode of developmen­t means more paving— and more flooding. The rivers that run through Toronto are fed by headwaters outside city limits, and irresponsi­ble developmen­t in the GTA would send more water our way.

As f loods become more common, certain neighbourh­oods could be deemed unlivable, prompting government buyouts (as seen recently in Gatineau, Quebec). In such cases, says Thistlethw­aite, struggling households will often take the buyout while their wealthier neighbours may choose to remain and fortify their homes. Over time, neighbourh­oods stratify, a phenomenon known as climate gentrifica­tion.

Meanwhile, floods could make insurance more expensive for everyone else. Repeated basement flooding can already make a home uninsurabl­e, and companies can raise premiums based on floods in the general area. “Insurance could end up being a luxury item for the rich,” says Thistlethw­aite, which would make it harder to get a mortgage or repair damaged properties. In the long run, the wealthy get floodwalls and everyone else gets caught in the deluge downstream.

Toronto could turn into a haven for climate refugees

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada