The city of Toronto has gone through paroxysms in the last few weeks to cut less than $28 million from the city’s budget. All environmental programs are still under review for possible cuts, including those efforts to help the city adapt to climate change. It’s therefore worth remembering that a single 2 1/2 hour storm on August 19, 2005 cost the city budget more than $47 million, none of which was covered by insurance. The best models available of Toronto’s climate and weather predict that rainstorms and other extreme weather events will grow significantly in intensity over the next 30 years. By the 2040s, we will have less snow but much more rain, including an 80% increase in rain events in July, and a 50% increase in August. Fewer but more intense rainstorms will cause more erosion, more drought and more flooding. The average annual temperature will go up by 4.4° C, making winters milder and wetter and extreme summer heat much more punishing (up 7.5°). Summer heat will be particularly scorching in the northern parts of the suburbs, farther from the lake. These huge swings will be brutally hard on the city’s tree cover, just as we need the trees more than ever to keep the city liveable.
30 years may seem like a lot, but it’s a very short time in the life of municipal infrastructure, urban buildings and trees. Refusing to prepare now will cost a lot more later on. Would anyone call this “gravy”?