Canada faces huge global warming costs

Michel Comte (AFP) Google News 29 Sep 11;

OTTAWA — The economic impact of climate change on Canada could climb to billions of dollars per year, according to a study published Thursday by a policy group that advises the Canadian government.

The report "Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada" by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy estimates that warming-related costs may rise to $5 billion per year by 2020, and between $21 and $43 billion per year by 2050.

It points to a reduced timber supply, storm surges and flood damage due to rising sea levels in coastal areas and poorer air quality in cities leading to more hospital visits.

And it calls on Ottawa to invest more in generating and disseminating research and detailed analysis to help communities adapt to climate change to try to avoid some of the added costs.

Canada contributes less than 1.5 percent of global carbon emissions.

However, "increasing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide will exert a growing economic impact on our own country, exacting a rising price from Canadians as climate change impacts occur here at home," the study said.

"Climate change will be expensive for Canada and Canadians."

For example, warmer temperatures and higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may accelerate forest growth in some areas.

However, the gains are expected to be more than offset by tree losses from increased forest fires, pests and extreme weather events including wind and ice storms.

Canada is home to almost 3.5 million square kilometers of forests, representing 10 percent of global forest cover. The forestry industry drives 1.7 percent of Canada's gross domestic product.

Losses in the sector due to climate change, the study concluded, could rise to $17 billion per year, with westernmost British Columbia province's forest-reliant economy likely suffering the most.

Low-lying and highly dense areas on the Pacific Coast, such as Vancouver, and Arctic regions such as Nunavut (which are experiencing the most dramatic rise in temperatures) also face the highest per capita costs of dwelling damage due to flooding, it said.

But the coastal areas of Prince Edward Island in the Atlantic Ocean are most at risk, said the report.

Flooding costs nationwide could top eight billion dollars per year by 2050, it concluded.

Finally, big cities such as Toronto and Vancouver are expected to experience more summer heat spells and worse air quality over the coming years, leading to more cardiovascular and respiratory woes.

Nationwide, fewer extreme cold days could reduce overall illnesses and deaths in winter, said the report. But some populations will face a greater risk of exposure to infectious diseases and diseases transmitted through water and food.

The magnitude of costs, it said, will depend on global emissions growth and Canadian economic and population growth.

Climate Change To Cost Canada Billions: Panel
David Ljunggren PlanetArk 30 Sep 11;

Climate change will cause damage in Canada equivalent to around 1 percent of GDP in 2050 as rising temperatures kill off forests, flood low-lying areas and cause more illnesses, an official panel said on Thursday.

The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy said Canada's Conservative government - criticized by green activists for not doing enough to fight global warming - should take measures to mitigate the effects of climate change, which most scientists blame on greenhouse gas emissions.

The north of Canada, the world's second largest country, is warming up at a much faster pace than the rest of the Earth.

"Climate change presents a growing, long-term economic burden for Canada," said the NRTEE, which the government set up in 1988 to provide advice on environmental issues.

According to the most likely scenario outlined by the panel, the damage done by global warming would be between 0.8 percent and 1 percent of GDP by 2050 and could hit almost 2.5 percent by 2075.

"The magnitude of costs depends upon a combination of two factors: global emissions growth and Canadian economic and population growth," the panel said.

Depending on how fast the world heats up and what actions Ottawa takes, the NRTEE said the damage in 2050 could range from C$21 billion ($20 billion) to C$43 billion a year.

The panel recommended several measures to help limit damage from climate change:

* enhance forest fire prevention, control pests, and plant climate-resilient tree species

* prohibit new construction in areas at risk of flooding in coastal areas

* install pollution control technologies to limit ozone formation.

Opposition legislators said the report showed the Conservatives needed to do much more to fight global warming.

"Our coastal communities, our forestry industry, and the health of Canadians will all suffer unless we take action right now. Yet this out-of-touch government has produced no plan to deal with the impact of climate change," said Laurin Liu of the official opposition New Democrats.

Environment Minister Peter Kent responded by saying the report showed the importance of adapting to climate change.

Canadians, he told legislators, wanted "a strong, stable, environmentally responsible ... government to take care of the environment, and that is exactly what we are doing".

The NRTEE said Canada would benefit from a global treaty that systematically reduced carbon emissions beyond 2012, when the first stage of the Kyoto Protocol expires.

Canada walked away from Kyoto after the Conservatives took power in 2006 and subsequently adopted a much more modest target for emissions cuts. John Bennett of the Sierra Club mocked Kent by condemning what he said was a "stubborn, deaf, environmentally irresponsible, antiquarian government".

The NRTEE largely dismissed the idea that global warming could help a northern country like Canada by reducing heating costs and making it easier to grow certain kinds of crops.

(Editing by Peter Galloway)