Citizen Action Monitor

Prepare for much more extreme weather warns Ontario regional task force

Municipalities urged to rapidly reduce emissions

No 1057 Posted by fw, May 22, 2014

“Between last decade and the 2040s, the projections show a 50 percent increase in the maximum rainfall in a single day, and more than 50 percent rise in the risk of tornadoes. They also predict an overall 16 percent climb in precipitation especially in July and August, and a shift from snow to rain in January and February.”CATCH News (Hamilton)

Click on the following linked title to read the original story. Alternatively, read below an abridged version with added subheadings and reorganized content.

Hamilton flooding -- How much worse can it get?

Hamilton flooding — How much worse can it get?

Responding to weather extremes by CATCH News (Hamilton), May 21, 2014

Durham, Ontario regional task force warns municipal residents extreme weather is going to get much worse

Residents were warned last week that extreme weather is going to get much worse and city governments are facing sharply growing adaptation costs of which the rock slides that have recently clobbered three mountain accesses appear to be just the latest impacts. The latest global climate news includes a worsening California drought and studies that conclude the West Antarctic ice sheet is doomed.

Archbishop Tutu’s call for divestment from fossil fuel companies read to forum attendees

Environment Hamilton director Dave Carson introduced the May 12 forum with excerpts from a recent statement by Archbishop Desmond Tutu that calls for action against fossil fuel companies.

“People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change. We can, for instance, boycott events, sports teams and media programming sponsored by fossil-fuel companies,” argues Tutu. “It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future.”

Prepare for weather extremes, including more heat waves, droughts and rainstorms

Brian Kelly, Durham region’s manager of sustainability, told a May 12 climate change forum in the central library that we’ve “already ordered” and “there’s no escaping delivery” of weather extremes that will challenge municipal residents and infrastructure with heat waves, droughts and more intense rainstorms. By the 2040s his region anticipates 25 days a year of plus 30C heat, and the doubling of rain dumps greater than 25 mm (1 inch) per day, as average temperatures climb four celsius degrees.

Presentation focused on how to prepare, protect, safeguard people and infrastructure from extremes

Kelly is heading up a Durham Region task force to map out how “to prepare, protect and safeguard us and our infrastructure” from these extremes. He spoke to a forum of about 200 people organized by 15 local groups including the local chapter of the Council of Canadians, Idle No More, Green Venture, Environment Hamilton and the Hamilton 350 Committee that was also addressed by climate scientist Dr Gordon McBean and local aboriginal voices.

Difference between mitigation and adaptation explained

“Climate mitigation is protecting the atmosphere from us,” explained Kelly, “climate adaptation is protecting us from the atmosphere.”

Mitigation plan competed, adaptation plan being finalized for Durham municipalities

Durham commissioned a study to determine as closely as possible the likely climatic shifts facing Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Uxbridge and other municipalities in the region that stretches from Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe just east of Toronto. A mitigation plan to reduce emissions has been completed, and Kelly’s group is now finalizing an adaptation strategy.  Durham obtained their regional specific projections by piggy-backing on a study done earlier for Toronto by the same consulting company.

Projections predict 50% increase in maximum daily rainfall, 50% increase in Tornadoes, 16% increase in precipitation

Between last decade and the 2040s, the projections show a 50 percent increase in the maximum rainfall in a single day, and more than 50 percent rise in the risk of tornadoes. They also predict an overall 16 percent climb in precipitation especially in July and August, and a shift from snow to rain in January and February.

The Durham study predicts a tripling of rain storms over 50 mm. That trend is already evident in this part of the continent, with data showing a more than 70 percent increase since the late fifties in the percentage of rain occurring in extreme storms in the northeastern section of the US adjacent to our part of Canada.

Forum presenters urge Durham municipalities to rapidly reduce emissions

While Kelly and the other forum speakers urged rapid reduction in emissions causing global warming, they also made clear that more extreme weather outcomes can no longer be avoided and make municipal preparations absolutely necessary. The increasing inevitability of change is also the conclusion of two studies released last week that say the West Antarctic ice sheet can’t be prevented from melting – a scenario that will raise sea levels between four and twelve feet.

Kelly pointed to assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other sources that show that current proven fossil fuel reserves are five times larger than can be burned and still have the planetary average warming stay below the 2C that all governments agree is the maximum safe increase.

Hamilton’s climate change coordinator hopes city council will approve a projection study

[Regional-specific projections haven’t] yet been done for Hamilton, but city climate change coordinator Brian Montgomery told last week’s forum that he hopes such a study will win council approval. Not counting last week’s heavy rains, the city has endured at least twenty major storms in the last decade that have flooded homes, and has paid out over $5 million in compassionate grants to affected residents, as well as over $12 million to subsidize the installation of backflow valves. However, councillors recently rejected a staff request for an extra million dollars a year for maintenance of stormwater facilities.

ABOUT CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) is a volunteer community group that encourages civic participation in Hamilton, Ontario. Our members attend and report on meetings of city councillors and other City committees, and carry out related research and activities. We issue regular news updates to our email list using recordings and transcripts of meetings, staff reports and/or other public documents to highlight information about Hamilton civic affairs that is not generally available in the mass media.

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