Adapting to climate change faster will save Canada billions, new analysis finds


Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Posted Wednesday, September 28, 2022 5:44 a.m. EDT

Canadians will see their incomes drop and face the choice between higher taxes or fewer government services if they don’t do more to adapt to climate change, warns a new report from the Canadian Climate Institute.

But according to a report released Wednesday, if governments and the private sector buckle up and start investing to make Canada more resilient to the effects of extreme weather, the economic impact of climate change can be reduced by 75%.

“The good news is that we have some ability to change that future,” said Ryan Ness, director of adaptation research for the climate institute.

In its analysis, called Damage Control, the institute looked at projected economic growth and analyzed the impact of different scenarios based on how many greenhouse gas emissions are eliminated and what we are doing to prepare for future more frequent severe weather events.

The worst news is that in all scenarios, Canada’s climate is already changing and more severe weather events — droughts, wildfires, floods and devastating storms — are already upon us.

In 2021, severe weather caused $2.1 billion in insured damage, which does not include public infrastructure costs or uninsured private losses.

The analysis estimates that Canada is already looking at annual disaster recovery bills of $5 billion by 2025 and $17 billion by 2050, regardless of Canada and the rest of the world’s ability to reduce shows.

It says that to avoid a loss of government services, including health care or education, income taxes would need to rise 0.35% in 2025 from today, and rise 1% d 2050.

“Negative economic impacts are not just a future prospect. They are already happening today,” Ness said.

Over the past week, Atlantic Canada has been hit by the worst hurricane it has ever seen, and Canadians in parts of Ontario and western Quebec are still recovering after a derecho hit hit the area with multiple tornadoes and downbursts, bringing winds up to 190 km/h in May.

Beyond higher reconstruction costs, Canada also faces massive economic disruption as factories shut down during storms or extreme heat and supply chains are disrupted. Railways and highways could break down faster than expected under the stress of more extreme weather conditions.

Construction will get an economic boost, but only because it needs to step in to repair and replace damaged structures and transportation corridors, the report says.

If we don’t do more to adapt in anticipation of more severe weather, he says, the economy will take a hit of $25 billion in 2025, reaching between $78 billion and $101 billion by 2050.

The impact would be felt at all levels, with lower incomes, job losses, lower business investment and reduced exports.

But if every effort is made to limit global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the report says, and if Canada makes the necessary investments to build resilience in public and private infrastructure, things will be better.

The report suggests that for every dollar invested in adaptation, governments and businesses can save $5-6 in direct damage costs and an additional $6-10 in economic benefits, such as avoiding work stoppages or slowdowns. productivity.

Adaptation may include levees to protect low-lying communities, laying of weather-resistant asphalt, or upgrading or burying critical power lines.

Ness said it’s “much more economically efficient to spend the money upfront to make this infrastructure better and more resilient than to fix it when climate change breaks it.”

The institute says the government needs to start integrating the costs of climate change into all its economic decisions. This includes reports on the estimated costs of not realizing planned investments.

It should also encourage, and in some cases compel, the private sector to do the same.

Above all, it must increase its investments in adaptation to meet the risk we face, according to the institute.

Ness said the national adaptation strategy expected from the federal government this fall is a good start, but he said it will only work if the strategy is accompanied by major new investments and actions.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 28, 2022.


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