Toronto's Future Weather and Climate

     The rainy spring evening of April 9 '13, residents gathered at Swansea Town Hall to meet and hear Franz Hartmann, Executive Director of TEA, Toronto Environmental Alliance, share how he first learned about the existence of Toronto's Future Weather and Climate study. He walked us through deeper levels of understanding as to what the study projects, and what this means for each of us, for our community, for our City.

     Imagine that by 2040, as compared with 2000-2009, Toronto is projected to have:

• 4 times the number of heat waves

• over 4 times the number of days with humidex > 40 degrees C., and triple the number of days with temperatures > 30 degrees C. (i.e. from 20 to 66 days). Mean maximum changes from 33 degrees to 44 degrees C.

• the number of Degree Days > 24 degrees C. (A/C required) rises from 31 to 180 / year. This means that almost half the year air conditoning will be required.

• summer storms which are more intense. More rainfall in July (80%+) and August (50%+). The maximum amount of rain in one  day goes from 66 mm to 166 mm

     Remember the 2005 washout of a section of Finch Ave. during a one-hour intense August storm? Repairs cost taxpayers $47 million, and $600 million in private costs.

     The evening of April 9 Councillor Doucette sent her regrets and shared the following with us:

I apologize that I cannot join you this evening but I have to attend an Etobicoke York Community Council evening meeting on the Mimico-by-the-Lake Secondary Plan.
Your topic this evening is of particular interest to me and even more so as a new member of the Parks and Environment Committee. The study entitled "Toronto's Future Weather & Climate Driver", which was presented at the January Parks and Environment meeting, shows how our climate will change over the next 36 years. It is amazing to read that we will have less snow and more rain in the winter. We will have fewer rain falls but more extreme storms. Our city sewers will have to be able to handle these torrents of water in a short period of time. The average annual temperatures will increase by 4.4 degrees. All of this will put a strain on our utilities and infrastructure.  I will not go into the report any further Franz Hartman of Toronto Environmental Alliance will cover it all.
The motion I put forward at the Committee meeting was that City Council direct that the presentation (January 29, 2013) from the Toronto Environmental Office and the study outcomes (October 26, 2012) be distributed to the following:
The Duty City Manager
The General Manager of Transportation Services
The General Manager of Toronto Water
The Chief Planner and Executive Director of City Planning
The Medical Officer of Health
The Chief Executive Officer of the TTC
The General Master of Toronto Hydro Corporation
And the Chief Executive Officer of Metrolinx
The motion also requests that staff report back to the Parks and Environmental Committee in the third quarter of 2013, to state what they have identified as key adaptations in their plans relating to core service, and what their capital plans will be moving forward.
I wanted to make sure that all these divisions look at their budgets now, look at the report and see what infrastructure changes they need to make moving into the future so that our city will be ready.
I know you will have a great discussion on this very important topic.

     After Franz Hartmann spoke, we engaged in very lively Q&A. He then challenged us with the following 3 questions which we  considered in breakout groups:

In order to prepare for 2040,

1 What can I do personally?

2 What can my community do?

3 What do we want City Hall to do?

What follows are the point/reflections recorded in our breakout groups:

1 What can I do personally to prepare for 2040?
• Educate myself – learn difference between climate and weather, know the facts
• Bike, walk, take public transit, carpool
• Talk about the issues with others, share information and educate people ( keep it simple)
• Inform businesses of the cost of inaction – think like an actuary – costs will continue to rise and it will cost more to upgrade the infrastructure etc. in the future than to prepare now
• Work to have localized energy in communities –shared solar, geothermal, etc.
• Prepare a home emergency kit with supplies for at least 3 days
• Consider the carbon cost of all my purchases
• Write letters
• Sign petitions and send them to friends
• Find out what MY politicians are doing
• Put climate change on the agenda for personal development days, and other meetings I attend regularly
• Make it personal for others – how it will affect their health, their family, their finances  ( “fear”)
• Think about how much money I will save by making energy saving investments now
• Work to change our government structure – proportional voting, and urge parties to join together to defeat Harper
• Make alliances with community groups so they can work toward a common goal

2 What can my community do to prepare for 2040?
• Make use of the public library for meetings, displays etc
• Promote a change in attitudes through education at all community events
• Community buildings should be retro-fitted
• Work toward having power sources for the community in the community, "communituy power"
• Safeguard the urban forest.
  Plant the right trees in the right places – what trees will be able     to survive the future conditions?
• Hold an annual remembrance of the blackout of August 14 '03        ( same for winter outages?)
• Hold community events to inform people about water kits, what  community groups are doing (e.g. Green 13), tell people  about sewer back-up valves, insurance issues in case of flooding etc.
• Hold ‘ lunch and learn’ sessions in community
• Link up groups in community so they can coordinate their efforts i.e. Transition Town, Green 13, Project Neutral
3 What do we want City Hall to do?
• A life cycle analysis, birth to grave, of effects on health etc.
• Energy efficient buildings and transit
• Listen to environmental lobbyists
• Encourage innovation
• Establish regulations to inhibit negative developments etc.
• Criminalize tree destruction
• Revamp the building code to accommodate new thinking and      developments re: alternative energy sources
• Revamp City bylaws, regulations etc. to ensure sustainability re: transit, buildings ( e.g. hurricane clips),
• Revamp the electrical grid, the sewer system etc.

These represent our beginning dialogue about preparing for big changes and challenges.

     Warm thanks to all who made our town hall on Toronto's Future Weather and Climate come about. We especially thank Swansea Town Hall who co-sponsored the event by providing us with meeting space in the Council Chamber. We are most grateful to Franz Hartmann who shared his time, expertise, and compassion to help us 'cut through the noise'.

       For further information on the study, please consult the following power point presentation made by SENES Consulting to the City of Toronto's Parks and Environment Committee on January 29, 2013:

We will surely continue this conversation.