Climate Disruption and Canada: A New Report Updates The Scale of Our Challenge, While Another Outlines the Size of the Prize

Photo: Yahya Khwaja, Flickr


This week saw the release of two important new climate reports—one outlining the risks for Canada, the other the potential reward.

To start with the bad news: a new federal assessment by government climate scientists offers an updated look at the scale of our challenge. Their report, quietly released by Natural Resources Canada earlier this week, summarizes the science of what we’re up against,  and what Canada is doing to adapt. The short answer: not nearly enough.

Some of the consequences of climate disruption for Canada include:

  • A temperature increase, from 1950 to 2010, that is double the global average.
  • A record $1.7 billion insurance payout for property damage from extreme weather events in 2011—a marker that will again be broken once the bills from 2013’s floods and storms are paid, and
  • A projection that “extreme precipitation events”—the kind of intense storms that can trigger flooding—will happen about twice as often by 2050 as they do today.

Perhaps the toughest read in the report comes from a section about “innovative ideas” to reduce the losses brought on by climate change. The authors note that some tourism operators “are considering promoting ‘last chance tourism,’ where additional tourists are drawn to a park to see either changing landscapes or certain features (e.g. glaciers or certain wildlife species) before they decline or disappear.”

As upsides go, that’s pretty bleak.

Fortunately, a marquee international report released within 24 hours of the first one finds massive opportunities in taking action to reduce the impacts that Canada’s climate scientists describe.

New analysis from the World Bank quantified the impacts of a policy package to reduce some sectors’ greenhouse gas pollution in six key jurisdictions, including the United States and China. By 2030, their assessment concluded, applying these policies would result in:

  • Annual GDP growth of up to $2.6 trillion
  • The avoidance of 90,000 premature deaths, and
  • Environmental benefits equivalent to taking 2 billion cars off the road.

This week’s report used new modelling approaches and fresh cases studies, but the overall conclusion is one we’ve seen again and again: The benefits of tackling climate disruption are huge, while the costs of action are manageable—and this costs are falling as clean technology matures. The new assessment also continues a tradition of strong support for climate action from World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim—a President Obama pick for the role.

Although the World Bank analysis didn’t look at Canada specifically, there is welcome news for us in its pages.

The Bank’s modelling looked at approaches to cut climate pollution in three areas: cleaner transportation, improved energy efficiency in industrial production, and more efficient buildings and appliances.

In a 2012 assessment from global consultants McKinsey, Canada was identified as a potential leader in each of those three areas. Specifically, McKinsey found that Canada “could take the lead” in industrial and building efficiency, and could “increase its global competitiveness” in next-generation automobiles.

In other words, some of those thousands of jobs and billions in GDP benefits could be ours.

So, bad news: Canada faces serious risks and impacts from climate disruption.

But good news: taking action to reduce that risk offers a big potential win for Canada’s economy.

As our Prime Minister likes to say, albeit in a very different context, this should be a no brainer.


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