Let’s get ahead of the storm with green infrastructure
Yesterday the Government of Ontario promised to spend $190 million to help Greater Toronto Area (GTA) municipalities recover from devastating storms that have hit the region over the last few months.
Local mayors welcomed the funding. It will help pick up the tab for disaster relief centers, hydro crew overtime and the cleanup of thousands of trees downed during a devastating late-December ice storm that left millions of residents without power for days.
But the climate will continue to change and severe storms will become increasingly common.
Last December’s ice storm and Calgary’s severe flooding last June are dramatic reminders of our vulnerability to severe weather events. Once referred to as “once in a century” occurrences, extreme storms are becoming disturbingly common in Canada and elsewhere.
The good news: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Communities can become more resilient to the effects of climate change by adopting policies that reduce vulnerability and costs.
One key strategy is to bring nature home. Planting trees and shrubs and constructing bioswales and engineered wetland add green while reducing storm water surges and flooding during heavy rainfall events.
As severe weather storms become more common, interest in preventative green infrastructure is exploding. The City of Philadelphia plans to spend $1.6 billion to convert one-third of its impervious asphalt surface to absorptive green spaces. And the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has begun to shift billions of dollars in expenditures into securing, protecting and enhancing green infrastructure following hurricane Sandy.
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