Local conservation authorities say the impact of climate change is making it increasingly hard to balance their books, which are funded in part by tax dollars.
Global warming is causing more extreme weather such as downpours, high winds and other events that result in floods and broken trees, said Chris Firth-Eagland, head of the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA).
And it’s only going to get worse, he said.
“It’s causing more flooding. Odd storms with more impact. Spikes,” he said. “Those kinds of storms happen, but they seem to be happening more frequently.”
“Climate change is a reality and it is having an impact on our budgets.”
City of Hamilton tax dollars partially fund four conservation authorities — Hamilton, Grand River, Niagara and Halton. Most of the authorities made some mention of climate change when presenting their budgets to councillors on Thursday.
'Climate change is a reality and it is having an impact on our budgets.' - Chris Firth-Eagland
Joe Farwell, head of the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA), told councillors that climate change could have a major impact on future budgets, caused by extreme events such as floods and droughts.
It’s hard to determine exactly how much climate change is costing conservation authorities, said Neil McDougall, HCA secretary-treasurer. But it is “absolutely” having an impact.
“In the old days, you used to know when winter was going to come,” he said. “Then you’d have a January thaw and spring would come. It was something you could count on. Now we’re having huge temperature swings and these wind storms like we’ve never seen before.”
Climate change will put more pressure on the budget in coming years, he said. Conservation Ontario is already lobbying the province for help.
It’s hard to argue that global warming is the culprit, Firth-Eagland said.
“The science base that I would say is universal across the board is available to us all."
The HCA is busy cleaning up after a pre-Christmas ice storm that caused massive tree damage and power outages. It is costing the authority about $120,000, McDougall said.
The GRCA is spending about $250,000 to clean up after the storm.
All of the authorities are spending money to deal with the emerald ash borer, an invasive pest that kills ash trees. For Grand River — which covers the western part of Hamilton, particularly Flamborough — it will cost nearly $1 million in 2014.
The HCA is will inject select male and female ash trees this year with TreeAzin, which increases a tree’s likelihood of survival. By injecting those robust trees, Firth-Eagland said, the authority hopes the trees produce offspring after the ash borer dies off or a natural predator materializes.
HCA offered a zero-per cent increase to the city’s levy this year. For the GRCA, it was a 1.55 per cent increase over last year.