Cost of Climate Change

The cost of climate change is becoming clearer. Anyone who thinks the weather isn’t getting strange must live – well I don’t know where they live, because our strange weather is happening pretty much everywhere. And the financial cost is very real.

In Canada this year we have had the Alberta floods, the Toronto floods, the Toronto and other areas (rural Ontario, New Brunswick and elsewhere) ice storm, and the polar vortex, with its cold weather and storms, along with higher heating bills. All of these have a connection to climate change.

The federal government contributed $2.5 billion to help Alberta, and the Provincial government and insurance companies contributed as well. The total cost was estimated at $6 billion. The insurance bureau reports that the Toronto flood cost $820 million. The Ontario provincial government has just announced $190 million to help municipalities with ice storm costs.

But it gets worse. CBC radio reports tonight that a scallop farm in British Columbia lost millions of scallops, and laid off 20 people. They believe it is due to excess acidity of the ocean. Carbon dioxide in the air is absorbed by the oceans, increasing acidity. The more carbon dioxide in the air, the more acidity. Increased acidity makes it more difficult for many shelled sea creatures, including corals, some zooplankton, and shellfish to make shells. Mass extinctions and die backs are expected, and will drastically affect the world’s fisheries. If the Ph in your body changed as much as the Ph has in the ocean, you would be dead. The best book on that I know of is by Alanna Mitchell.

So it isn’t just weather. Geo engineering (mirrors in space, shooting sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere to make clouds etc.) have a remote chance of solving climate change. But they won’t solve the acid problem in the oceans.

And it isn’t just Canada. The Philippines typhoon, the Colorado floods, hurricane Sandy, constant storms in the UK, and drought in California, that will drive up produce prices – these are all costs that will hit us all.

It’s all about energy use. We know what can be done. Conservation, renewable energy, transit, especially electric transit, regulations about energy efficiency of vehicles and appliances, urban design, building codes, and most of all – incentives and penalties. We have the technologies. What we lack is government policy.

To their credit, the Ontario move to close the coal plants was the biggest climate initiative in North America. Adding more renewables, to reduce gas use (as is already happening), can reduce emissions even more. But we need to get on with Toronto transit expansion.

At the federal level, we have a shameful record. Conservation and incentives for renewables are non existent. Instead we get cheer leading for pipelines and tar sands. It is entirely possible that world will refuse to buy tar sands oil in 20 years, as the world decides we must stop the increase in the carbon dioxide levels.

Our taxes will be higher, our food prices will be higher, our insurance rates will be higher. And we might not have shellfish. We can spend something now to solve the problem for us and for future generations by investing in reducing emissions. Or we can just keep spending when climate change costs us.. Are we smart enough to figure this out? As Stephen Harper says, it seems like the real no brainer.

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