Citizen Action Monitor

Climate-driven severe weather catastrophes happening worldwide – Are you worried yet?

In Ontario, local governments are bearing brunt of financial burden from severe weather events.

No 2044 Posted by fw, September 5, 2017

“Houston, we have a problem, and so do cities and towns across the continent including Hamilton. The financial burden of the increasing frequency and intensity of severe weather falls mainly on local governments and individuals with limited capacity to pay. … Senior levels of government have the legal tools to reduce fossil fuel pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions that could minimize climatic instability. On the other hand the jurisdictional costs of not acting come in the form of disrupted and damaged water and sewer systems, roads and other infrastructure that are mainly the responsibility of municipalities.”Hamilton CATCH News

Windsor flooding, Aug. 29, 2017

Further to my August 30 post, Who to blame for a drowned Houston and a drenched Windsor?, extreme weather events appear to be on the minds of many Ontario residents these days. Is this a sure sign of public awakening to the existential risks of climate change? Let’s hope so, because time is running short to keep global warming below 2°C.

Canadian ecologist Bill Rees declares it’s past time for ordinary citizens to demand their political leaders “to show how the policies they are pursuing can deliver ecological stability, economic security, social equity and improved population health to future generations.

ABOUT CATCH (Citizens AT City Hall) is a volunteer community group that encourages civic participation in Hamilton. 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.

Below is a repost of the CATCH article with my added subheadings. Alternatively, read the piece on the CATCH website by clicking on the following linked title.

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We have a problem by Hamilton CATCH News, September 4, 2017

Increasing financial burden of severe weather events overburdening local governments

Houston, we have a problem, and so do cities and towns across the continent including Hamilton. The financial burden of the increasing frequency and intensity of severe weather falls mainly on local governments and individuals with limited capacity to pay.

Catastrophic climate-driven superstorms in South Asia worse that Hurricane Harvey

It’s a parallel problem to the catastrophic climatic events currently battering parts of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and sub-Saharan Africa who make the least per person contribution to the fossil fuel pollution and other greenhouse gases driving global climatic change but are bearing the worst consequences. While North American attention has focused on the effects of Hurricane Harvey on Texas and Louisiana, hundreds are dying in South Asia from even worse downpours and flooding.

Extreme heatwaves fuel forest fires and droughts worldwide

This year has seen extreme heat waves in the Middle East and southern Europe, the latter accompanied by more deadly forest fires than British Columbia has endured over the past two months. The Amazon rain forest has been hit with its third 100-year drought in a decade, and there’s even a major wildfire in Greenland.

Intense rainfall floods homes in Windsor Ontario, despite costly storm sewer upgrades   

Last week the Windsor area was hit with another round of extreme rain and flooding with a dump of 250 mm (ten inches) in two days. Thousands of homes were swamped despite the city spending $25 million a year for the last decade to upgrade its storm sewer system.

In 2009, Ontario government denied Hamilton request for disaster flood relief funds 

Windsor officials are hoping for provincial disaster monies, just as Hamilton sought unsuccessfully in 2009 after east end flooding swamped over 7000 homes and the Red Hill Parkway. The $30 million hit to municipal infrastructure ended up being carried by local taxpayers, and many of the individuals whose homes were flooded paid a steep price too. Since then the city has poured tens of millions into sewer upgrades.

Meanwhile, oil, gas and coal companies drown in profits from products that drive climate crises  

The difficulty proving that a specific extreme weather event was caused by climate change also complicates municipal requests for senior government assistance. To this point, at least in Canada, none have attempted to go after the wealthy oil, gas and coal corporations whose products are the main cause.

Hamilton’s “compassionate grant” fund is being tapped again for area flooding

Hamilton offers a “compassionate grant” of up to $1000 to flooded property owners. Spending from that fund has exceeded $5 million and is being tapped again after the Dundas flooding earlier this summer. Unusual amounts of rain are also forcing repairs this year to escarpment access roads, waterfront trails and other public infrastructure.

Municipalities bear the brunt of damage costs because of inaction by federal and provincial governments

Senior levels of government have the legal tools to reduce fossil fuel pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions that could minimize climatic instability. On the other hand the jurisdictional costs of not acting come in the form of disrupted and damaged water and sewer systems, roads and other infrastructure that are mainly the responsibility of municipalities.

Hamilton city councillors and constituents stall on introducing measures to address climate change damage 

Several cities including London, Mississauga and Kitchener-Waterloo have established impervious surface fees to ensure that large parking lots pay a fair share of stormwater costs. This approach has been repeatedly advocated by Hamilton city staff and just as often rejected by city councillors, so those costs continue to primarily be paid out of water rates.

Cities can try to reduce some pollution emissions that are causing climate change. One obvious step is aggressively improving transit services. Another is directing growth toward increasing densities rather than facilitating more suburban sprawl. Both approaches are being strongly pushed by the provincial Wynne government as part of its climate efforts, but are running into lots of resistance in Hamilton – from both city councillors and many of their constituents.

City leaves it to citizen groups to challenge Enbridge Line 10 pipeline expansion project

Local government in Hamilton has also been only mildly opposed to new fossil fuel infrastructure such as the Enbridge Line 10 pipeline expansion project currently underway along a 35 kilometre route that lies entirely inside the city boundaries. It has been left to citizen groups to challenge the project including with a rally along its route in Mt Hope on September 15. That starts at 4 pm at the south end of Homestead (at Upper James).

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