Climate Change Could be Expensive for Canada
Posted on 30 September 2011 by John Hartz
This is a reprint of a news release posted by Canada's National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRT) on Sep 19, 2011.
Unless global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are brought down and Canada invests in adaptation, the economic impacts of climate change on Canada could climb to billions of dollars per year, according to a new report released today by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRT).
Paying the Price: the Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada – the fourth report in the NRT’s Climate Prosperity series – is the first national study to show what the economic consequences to Canada could be as a result of climate change, under four separate scenarios involving two factors: global GHG emissions and Canadian economic and population growth.
Although Canada contributes approximately 1.5% of global emissions, the report concludes that climate change impacts brought about by increased world-wide emissions have a real and growing economic cost to Canada. It also shows that adaptation – our capacity to manage the impacts to come – while not cost-free, is a cost-effective way to alleviate some of those impacts.
Based on NRT original economic modelling, the report finds that the economic impact on Canada could reach:
- 2020: $5 billion per year
- 2050: Between $21 and $43 billion per year
The report also estimates a five per cent chance that costs could escalate to $91 billion in 2050 if Canada’s population and economic growth is rapid and global climate change is high.
Because climate change impacts will manifest themselves sectorally and regionally in different ways across the country, the NRT also focused on the economic impacts and cost-effectiveness of adaptation strategies for three representative areas: timber supply, coastal areas and human health.
In the 2050s:
- Timber supply impacts could range from $2 billion to $17 billion per year with high impacts in B.C.
- Flooding damages to coastal dwellings, resulting from climate change-induced sea-level rise and storm surges, could cost between $1 billion to $8 billion per year with higher than average cost impacts in Atlantic Canada
- Poorer air quality resulting from higher temperatures will lead to more hospital visits, resulting in millions of dollars in costs to local health care systems for four of Canada’s major cities – Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver and Calgary
The NRT also assessed if cost savings would occur as a result of proactive climate adaptation measures such as enhanced forest fire management and restricting coastal development in flood-prone areas. The report concludes that adaptation can save money by reducing the physical and economic impacts of climate change. The economic benefits of investing in adaptation outweighed the costs of simply letting rising climate impacts and costs occur in most instances.
“Climate change has a price tag and it could be expensive,” said NRT President and CEO, David McLaughlin. “While our report makes it clear that getting global emissions down is both in our economic and environmental interest, it also shows that adaptation is key in reducing impacts on people, places and prosperity.”
Specific recommendations include further investment by the Government of Canada in increasing our country’s expertise in the economics of climate change impacts and adaptation, and further use of economic analysis to inform allocation of adaptation funding. The report also recommends that all levels of governments continue investing in producing and disseminating research to guide adaptation decision-making by business, communities, and individuals.
“This report sets out to help all of us – governments, business, and communities – to make climate-wise investment choices now, and in the future. The economic information we provide here will further help us understand what is at stake if we fail to respond and GHG emissions continue to rise,” said NRT Vice-Chair Robert Slater.
About the Round Table
Through the development of innovative policy research and considered advice, the NRT’s mission is to help Canada achieve sustainable development solutions that integrate environmental and economic considerations to ensure the lasting prosperity and well-being of our nation. The NRT is the only national organization with a direct mandate from Parliament to engage Canadians in the generation and promotion of sustainable development advice.
The report is available on the Round Table’s website: www.nrtee-trnee.ca
NRT’s Climate Prosperity Reports Series
In the global transition to a low-carbon economy, Canadian competitiveness is at stake. We need to determine where we can succeed and gain in achieving a low-carbon performance that will create jobs and opportunity for Canadians. This study examines how Canada ranks within the G8 nations for low-carbon performance.
Climate prosperity means competing with the world to build and new low-carbon future for Canada and Canadians. The green race is on. Canada needs to be ready.
Report #2: Degrees of Change: Climate Warming and the Stakes for Canada (Dec 16, 2010)
This report is about how Canada will be affected in a climate-changing world. The earth is warming and Canada is already experiencing this change at an even faster rate than other nations. Climate change promises to be both pervasive and pernicious. What will it mean to Canada? How will it impact us? What can we expect?
Forewarned is forearmed. The world is warming and Canada will feel the effects. We need to know what climate impacts are coming so we can adapt and prosper.
Rport#3: Parallel Paths: Canada-U.S. Climate Policy Choices (Jan 25, 2011)
Uncertainty about American climate policy shapes Canada’s own policy choices and direction. By necessity, our integrated economies require serious consideration of harmonizing Canadian climate policy with that of the United States. But different energy economies and greenhouse gas emission profiles in the two countries create different economic and environmental implications for Canada as we pursue such a harmonized policy approach.
Greenhouse gases know no borders. Parallel paths – together but different – allow Canada to harmonize climate policy with the U.S. while meeting our national needs and goals.
Report #4: "Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada" (Sep 19, 2011)
The following paragraphs from Chapter 7 (page 117) of this report detail its scope.
“Degrees of Change” (NRT Report #2) showed what the physical impacts of climate warming could be for Canada; “Paying the Price” shows what the economic impacts could be for Canada.
Many of these impacts will be negative and many will carry a cost. Together, these two NRTEE reports help Canadians know more about what climate change impacts could be and how much they could cost. Understanding the costs of climate change in economic terms is essential to help us remain prosperous through climate change. This understanding helps all of us — governments, business, communities — make climate-wise investment choices. Economic information helps us understand what is at stake if we fail to respond and global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Here we underline the economic damages associated with global emissions. Canada contributes approximately 1.5 per cent of global emissions158; although high on a per capita basis, it is dwarfed by emissions from everywhere else. Emissions from abroad — not just our own — represent the greatest economic risk to Canada. But equally, our emissions contribute to imposing costs on the rest of the world. This NRTEE analysis shows compelling evidence for Canada to advocate for a strong international arrangement that brings those emissions down, on both environmental and economic grounds.
Throughout this report, we explored the potential economic costs — of impacts as well as adaptation investment — associated with climate change in Canada. We did so to learn more about the economic scale of the problem to our country. And we did so to begin to figure out how to cope with what can only be a growing challenge by considering how adaptation can reduce impacts of climate change and lessen costs to Canadians.
To do so — the first time ever in Canada — we conducted original economic modelling of the costs of inaction to Canada, of letting growing climate change run its course. Next, to fill out our analysis and understanding, we undertook detailed representative studies of what climate change could mean to Canada’s prosperity (timber supply), places (coastal areas), and people (human health). Finally, we explored the economic value of ecosystems to understand how a changing climate could affect how Canadians use and view this aspect of Canada.