Global warm­ing has stag­ger­ing lo­cal costs

Calgary Herald - - OPINION - MUR­RAY MANDRYK Mur­ray Mandryk is the po­lit­i­cal colum­nist for the Regina Leader-Post. [email protected]­

Maybe you can’t to­tally con­demn lo­cal politi­cians for be­ing con­cerned that a car­bon tax may af­fect jobs.

Sure, wor­ries from On­tario Premier Doug Ford or even Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe that a car­bon tax will cost us jobs do seem mock­able in the con­text of the re­cent In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change re­port that the Earth only has about 12 years left to avert catas­tro­phe un­less we can limit global warm­ing to a max­i­mum of 1.5 de­grees C.

“It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the mo­ment and we must act now,” said De­bra Roberts, a co-chair of the IPCC work­ing group on im­pacts of cli­mate change. “This is the largest clar­ion bell from the sci­ence com­mu­nity, and I hope it mo­bi­lizes peo­ple and dents the mood of com­pla­cency.”

How­ever, the very def­i­ni­tion of “global warm­ing ” makes it a global is­sue, far re­moved from the purview of lo­cal politi­cians. And, as mind-bog­glingly parochial as it sounds, a car­bon tax cost­ing lo­cal politi­cians lo­cal jobs be­comes far more press­ing than news that an­other half-de­gree Cel­sius will sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease the risks of hur­ri­canes, drought and floods, and add to poverty for hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple half a world away.

More­over, there are learned sci­en­tists who aren’t con­vinced Canada’s car­bon tax will have the de­sired ef­fect of re­duc­ing green­house gas (GHG) emis­sions — notwith­stand­ing No­bel Prize win­ner Paul Romer’s view car­bon taxes are the best way to re­duce CO2.

But lest this be in­ter­preted by lo­cal politi­cians as rea­son to dis­count the IPCC re­port, per­haps they should con­sider what Uni­ver­sity of Saskatchewan Prof. John Pomeroy, Canada re­search chair in wa­ter re­sources and cli­mate change, says about how cli­mate change is al­ready ham­mer­ing our econ­omy to the tune of bil­lions of dol­lars.

Shouldn’t that pique lo­cal politi­cians’ in­ter­est?

If there is an ar­gu­ment that the fed­eral car­bon tax will cost us lo­cal jobs with no mean­ing­ful en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fit, Pomeroy ar­gues there’s an even bet­ter ar­gu­ment that cli­mate-change-caused ex­treme weather events are al­ready ham­mer­ing the west­ern Cana­dian econ­omy.

“I think we are go­ing to fail to ad­dress it in a mean­ing­ful way,” Pomeroy said from Can­more, where he is study­ing the im­pact of ex­treme sum­mer drought fol­lowed by record Septem­ber snow­fall he says is very likely re­lated to chang­ing cli­mate. “But we are go­ing to have to pre­pare for it.”

Ac­cord­ing to the UN, be­tween 1998 and 2017 cli­mate-re­lated dis­as­ters cost the world econ­omy $2.25 tril­lion, with the United States, China and Japan be­ing the hard­est-hit coun­tries.

Cli­mate-change-re­lated events be­tween 2001 and 2003 cost the Prairie econ­omy 41,000 jobs and $6 bil­lion in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, Pomeroy noted. A sin­gle three-day rain event in 2014 is es­ti­mated to have cost us $1.5 bil­lion in flood dam­age costs.

In the same way the 1930s drought caused farm­ers to aban­don south­ern Saskatchewan, peo­ple are again be­ing dis­placed by cli­mate-re­lated events, Pomeroy said. Fort McMur­ray’s pop­u­la­tion has not re­cov­ered from the 2016 fire that cost $9 bil­lion, in the same way the pop­u­la­tions of Hous­ton and New Or­leans haven’t re­cov­ered after their hur­ri­canes. This is also a lo­cal ef­fect of cli­mate change.

Pomeroy ac­knowl­edged that lo­cal politi­cians may con­tinue to be swayed by those who view such events as noth­ing more than nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring weather we’ve seen through­out his­tory.

But to those ea­ger to say that there’s noth­ing un­usual hap­pen­ing to our cli­mate, Pomeroy notes canola that was re­stricted to the north­west 40 years ago is now grown all over the prov­ince. Mean­while, corn — once only grown south of Saskatchewan — is also seen as a vi­able crop.

A warmer, wet­ter cli­mate in Saskatchewan can have its pos­i­tives, but it’s now mid-Oc­to­ber and only 78 per cent of the crop is in the bin after record sum­mer heat and record Septem­ber snow­fall.

“It’s the dam­age from ex­treme weather events that’s the most com­pelling rea­son (for lo­cal politi­cians to act),” Pomeroy said, adding in­sur­ance may be­come un­af­ford­able.

“I think we need to ad­dress it like we would a war.”


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