‘Tip of the iceberg’: new government report examines the costs of climate change

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The report concludes that the costs are rising, affecting all sectors and outweighing the potential benefits

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On Monday, Natural Resources Canada released a new report that attempts to answer an increasingly common question: What is the economic impact of climate change?

The 734-page report, which examines many issues related to Canada’s ability to adapt to climate change, not only quantifies the costs, but concludes that the costs of climate change are increasing, affecting every industry and industry. outweigh the potential benefits.

As the second report in an ongoing national knowledge assessment process, it moves on from a 2019 study that laid the science behind climate change and shifted the discussion towards adaptation – something the groups companies now advocate should be the focus of government policy.

“This is nothing new for insurers,” said Robin Edger, national director of climate change at the Insurance Bureau of Canada, an industry group. “Because insurers have seen climate change show up in their models for quite some time now and we need to adapt now and make ourselves more resilient. “

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His organization, along with nine other insurers, the Business Council of Canada, the Chamber of Commerce, as well as other industry groups, the Metis National Council and several environmental nonprofits have launched a new coalition, called Climate Proof Now. , to coincide with the publication of the report.

The new coalition will advocate for better government policy to prepare for and adapt to climate change.

Edger said that for insurers, the annual costs of climate change in Canada – defined as severe weather events, such as floods, fires and the like – have increased from an average of $ 400 million per year in the 1980s to several multiples today.

Severe weather events in 2020 caused $ 2.4 billion in damage in Canada, the fourth highest on record in nearly four decades, with notable damage in Alberta, including $ 526 million in flood damage in Fort McMurray last spring and $ 1.3 billion from hailstorms in Calgary last June.

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“Severe weather is such a danger that we are asking the government to make it a very high priority for government spending,” said Edger.

The industry move to support climate change adaptation policies comes as Western governments unveil ambitious spending plans to reduce global emissions and change our energy landscape.

In Canada, the federal government has proposed an $ 8 billion net zero strategic innovation fund, which could be used to develop blue hydrogen resources in Alberta, from electric vehicle manufacturing supply chains across the countries and other ambitious goals.

But projects to increase Canada’s resilience to climate change have yet to receive the same level of attention.

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The new report identifies gaps in the country’s preparedness for climate change, such as aging infrastructure in cities or lack of resources to tackle wildfires in the west.

He cites a 2019 study that suggests that even a 0.04 ° C per year increase in average global temperature would reduce per capita global economic output by about 7.2% from what it would otherwise be in 2100. , with Canada facing an even steeper drop of 13.1%. .

A man cools off at a misting station in scorching Vancouver on Sunday.
A man cools off at a spray station in scorching Vancouver on Sunday. Photo by Jennifer Gauthier / Reuters

Over the past 40 years, the report cites a 2020 Public Safety Canada report that found damage from extreme weather events in that country cost the economy an estimated $ 31 billion.

Although the report’s authors noted during a technical briefing that there could be some benefits from climate change, such as increased tourism in the Arctic and longer tourist seasons in general, the costs are much higher. .

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The report, which represents a multi-year effort with contributions from academics and others outside of government, was released as Western Canada faced a significant weather event. Lytton, British Columbia recorded temperatures of 46.1 degrees Celsius on Sunday, the highest on record in Canada.

Such weather events are essentially the focus of the report, suggesting that urgent action is needed.

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“Much research indicates that current adaptation efforts are insufficient in the face of rapidly accumulating social and economic losses due to current and future impacts of climate change,” the report says. “Research also shows that the window to take action to reduce increasingly severe impacts is closing quickly. “

In a technical briefing hosted by Natural Resources Canada on Monday, Ashlee Cunsolo, dean of Memorial University’s School of Arctic and Subarctic Studies, who contributed to the report, said the pecuniary damages did not do not include indirect damage, such as the loss of ecosystems resulting from climate change.

“They’re kind of the tip of the iceberg of all the other costs,” Cunsolo said. “We really can’t come up with solid numbers. “

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In-depth reporting on The Logic’s innovation economy, presented in partnership with the Financial Post.

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