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Getting ready for the next flood

Oct 10, 2017

Last week’s critical audit of federal government unpreparedness for climate change underlines that Hamilton is as far behind as the Trudeau government in planning for impacts on residents and community infrastructure. Four years after councillors asked the city manager for “a climate change vulnerability study and risk assessment of services and operations impacted by extreme weather events” and what “actions to reduce these risks” should be taken, it still has not been delivered.

Global average temperatures in August were the second highest ever recorded for that month and July was the highest ever documented. Surprising to climate scientists, this heating is occurring despite not having the El Nino assist that pushes up global temperatures. The August numbers were particularly astounding for parts of the Antarctic continent which were eight Celsius degrees above normal.

This was the summer of multiple catastrophic hurricanes and flooding in the Caribbean, Mexico and the United States; a mega-drought in Montana and southern Saskatchewan; and record wildfires in British Columbia and California. Flooding also hit over 40 million people in India, Bangladesh and Nepal in late August, killing over 1200 people.

Hamilton has spent and continues to spend lots of money responding to flooding and other extreme weather events, but it has yet to publicly present a strategic plan on how to deal with the problem. It’s a somewhat different story across the bay in Burlington where a “weather bomb” dumped 185 mm of rain in six hours and flooded ten percent of the homes.

Burlington mayor Rick Goldring told CBC’s “The Current” last month that his home owners can each tap into “eight or nine thousand dollars of funding” to help them reduce the risk of future flooding.

“One of the programs that we have is to disconnect the eavestroughs from the sanitary sewer system, and that's for older homes that were built prior to 1975,” Goldring explained. “It will cover 100% up to $500, will cover 100% of the cost to disconnect the weeping tile and install a sump pump, up to $5000. We will cover 50% of a backflow valve up to $675. And we also cover 50% of the cost of putting a camera through your sanitary sewer lateral up to $2000.”

Dr Blair Feltmate has been advising Burlington and is leading a new expert panel on climate change adaptation and resilience for the federal government. He believes that Canadian municipalities are poorly prepared for the super storms that are “a categorical certainty” even though annual costs are already ten times what they were just a decade ago.

“One of the things people have to realize there is no such thing as a safe community, because the actual dynamic of storms have changed now, such that we can have microburst storms with let's say 175 millimeters of rain, over a six hour period,” he explains. “And it's almost impossible to predict where those events are going to occur but it is highly predictable that they will occur.”

Hamiltonians have a chance to learn more about how cities can respond to climate change when former Toronto mayor David Miller speaks at the McMaster Innovation Park at 7pm on October 18. Miller has just become the North American director of C40 Cities, a network of the world’s megacities committed to dealing with climate change.

The following week, local environmental leader Grant Linney is speaking on the climate change he saw duringhis visits this year to both Antarctica and the Canadian arctic. That’s sponsored by the local chapter of the Council of Canadians and the Hamilton 350 Committee and taking place Tuesday, October 24 at 639 Main Street East starting at 7pm.

Then on November 3 the controversial Dr Guy McPherson will give a lecture on the current science of abrupt climate change at Flamborough Presbyterian Church (Highway 8 and Middletown Road) at 7pm.

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