The controversial results of a study on projected climate conditions were presented at City Hall Tuesday, sparking conversation among councillors.
The report, which was commissioned in 2008 for $250,000, looked at the extensive financial cost of preparing the city’s public infrastructure for such extreme weather conditions as heavy rain, shorter winters and heat waves which it suggests could be regular occurrences in city in the years 2040-2049.
“Toronto’s future climate, if we don’t change anything, is going to have a catastrophic impact on Torontonians,” Franz Hartzmann of the Toronto Environmental Alliance told CityNews.
After reading the report, city council discussed how climate change would impact the future of public health, road conditions – including the aging Gardiner expressway, sewage treatments and energy usage.
“The city of Toronto is not ready for climate change. We’re going to have to spend some significant money getting ready but if we don’t the consequences are unbearable,” Coun. Gord Perks told CityNews.
Even global warming skeptics at City Hall, such as Coun. Norm Kelly, said it was “better to be safe than sorry” when it comes to preparing the city for extreme weather situations.
“I was talking to one climatologist who said we could end up having the climate of Tennessee,” Kelly said.
The report documented the number of damaging storms and weather conditions that hit the city since 2000, including the warmest January 17 since 1840 in 2005, the second least snow cover ever in Toronto in 2007 and a rare mid-Spring ice storm in 2003.
Extreme weather over the last decade has caused flooding, road erosion including damages to the Gardiner Expressway and massive power outages. These damages have cost the city and insurance companies billions to repair.
“The fluctuations in temperatures spark a thaw and freeze cycle that actually pops concrete off of rebar and starts the rust process,” explained Coun. Adam Vaughan.
“One of the reasons infrastructure needs to be looked at differently with climate change upon us is it undermines the assumptions that engineers made 30, 40 years ago when winters were cold and only cold.”
Using these numbers, the report predicted that in thirty years the city will have 26 fewer snow days per year, average winter temperatures will increase by 5.7 C and rainfall increases of 80 per cent in July and 50 per cent in August.
City council will now study the results of the climate change report.