Planning for Climate Change in Muskoka

Climate is now changing more rapidly than it has changed at any previous time in the history of human civilization. If we continue on our current path, with ever rising emissions, we face unprecedented catastrophic climate change later in this century.


Climate change has been happening for many decades and is now becoming apparent in people’s daily lives. Muskoka cannot prevent climate change, although every one of us, by making various changes in our lives, can participate in the global effort to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases – the primary cause of climate change at the present time.

This report is about the climate that Muskoka is likely to experience at mid-century and examines the likely impacts of that mid-century climate on our lakes and waterways, our forests, our built infrastructure, our communities, and our way of life.

Our evaluation of the data suggests that Muskoka’s climate at mid-century is going to be warmer and slightly wetter than at present, and that precipitation may come in fewer but more pronounced storm events. These changes have impacts.


The good news is that climate change in Muskoka, while substantial, is unlikely to create insurmountable problems. The better news is that while there will be a number of negative impacts on our environment and our lives, we have sufficient understanding of the causes and processes involved, plus the relevant skills to plan for and implement adaptive responses that will minimize these impacts. The still better news is that with community-wide commitment to forward planning and timely action, we should be able to adapt effectively to the new world that is coming while keeping costs manageable.

Infographic of expected climate in Muskoka by 2050.


The following are 15 recommendations included in the paper. Details about each recommendation, including possible implementation, are included in the Planning for Climate Change in Muskoka report.

1) Actions to improve understanding of the ecological functioning of the Muskoka environment:

  1. Strengthen and broaden the existing monitoring of lakes in Muskoka.
  2. Develop new research program on causes and management of algal blooms in Muskoka Lakes.
  3. Develop new research program on the effects of road salt on Muskoka aquatic systems.
  4. Develop new research program on the combined effects of calcium decline and climate change on forest ecosystems in Muskoka.
  5. Undertake a review of wetland ecosystem values and active management techniques for retaining these in the face of increasing summer/fall drought.

2) Actions to address anticipated impacts of climate change on the Muskoka environment:

  1. Plan and implement policies and infrastructure that will permit some capacity to control water flow through the Muskoka River Watershed.
  2. Undertake a review of planning documents to ensure that floodplains are appropriately delineated for the climate anticipated for mid- to late-century.
  3. Develop up-to-date information for landowners on methods for maintaining their forested land.

3) Actions to prepare our built infrastructure and its management for the climate of mid-century:

  1. Plan for added capacity for winter road maintenance under a higher precipitation winter climate.
  2. Regularly scheduled reviews, and planning for retrofit or expansion of any municipal infrastructure, should incorporate the latest information on local impacts of climate change.
  3. Encourage the construction of energy-neutral housing and other buildings in Muskoka.
  4. Plan for electrical production and distribution upgrades that will increase resilience of the electricity grid to the more extreme weather patterns expected with climate change.

4) Action to facilitate the effective implementation of these recommendations:

  1. Every individual Muskokan should undertake to become informed on climate change issues, and take real steps to reduce his/her own carbon footprint.
  2. Establish the position of Director of Climate Adaptation within the District Municipality of Muskoka government.
  3. Convene a Steering Committee to facilitate the collaborations needed, and to ensure implementation is on track.

Additional Resources