It will cost less now to prepare for the effects of climate change on public transport infrastructure than to fix it later, the Financial Accountability Office (FAO) has found in a new report.
This is the second time the FAO has assessed the impacts of climate change on Ontario’s bottom line. There will be one more, on hydraulic infrastructures, as well as a final summary report.
In both reports, the message is clear: act now or pay the price — literally.
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Ontario’s transportation infrastructure, including roads, bridges, culverts and railroads, is worth $330 billion, according to the FAO. Municipalities own 82% (mainly because they own all the roads, which represent two-thirds of the total cost) and the remaining 18% is owned by the province.
The FAO has found that if the climate were stable, it would still cost a lot – around $11 billion a year – to keep all this infrastructure in good condition until 2030.
“I’m joking with people who, you know, maybe the Jetsons were right,” FAO chief Peter Weltman told reporters at Queen’s Park on Thursday, referring to the cartoon family who lived in a futuristic city with flying cars.
Extreme weather conditions such as heavy rain, high heat, and freeze-thaw cycles average an additional $1.5 billion per year, adding $14 billion in additional costs during this period.
The estimate of longer term costs depends on the severity of climate change.
In the “medium emissions” scenario, which many experts have presented as a realistic goal, global emissions will peak in the middle of the 21st century before declining. If so, without proactive adaptation, infrastructure maintenance costs in Ontario would increase by $2.2 billion a year, totaling $171 billion in additional costs by 2100, according to the FAO.
If emissions continue to rise throughout this century, the cost will be $4.1 billion per year, or $322 billion in additional spending by the 22nd century.
There is no way to completely avoid climate change – it is already happening, FAO noted.
There were an average of four days per year with temperatures above 30°C between 1976 and 2005. The number is expected to increase to 34 days between 2071 and 2100. A rainfall event in 100 years was defined as 103 mm of rain in 24 hours in the previous period. This definition should be 158 mm in the last period.
The good news is that Ontario can be proactive, the FAO said. It would cost more to make infrastructure more climate-resilient now. But the FAO found that it would be cheaper overall and put Ontario in a much better position to start the next century.
Public infrastructure has a long lifespan, which is why it’s important to make these kinds of decisions now, Weltman said.
The FAO did not estimate the economic impact of climate impacts on transport networks for people and businesses, but said “this would be a useful area of future research”.
“These costs would be significant and, if added together, would likely show other benefits of adapting public transport infrastructure,” FAO said in its report.
And the report only looks at the cost of repairing infrastructure — not the general economic disruption caused by climate change-related events, Weltman noted.
“We don’t estimate the economic impact of the flooding of this road. Much like we saw in British Columbia last year with the road washed away, supply chains disrupted, people were cut off from the mainland,” he said.
Weltman said the report could provide municipalities with data to “bring your case” to the province to do more on the climate, since those costs could be passed on to local governments if no action is taken. taken now.
Opposition parties said the report shows the Ford government is not taking climate change seriously.
Interim NDP Leader Peter Tabuns said the Conservatives’ focus on building highways is mortgaging the province’s future.
Premier Doug Ford “is actually increasing the risk of flooding with his approach to public infrastructure, allowing his developer buddies to pave farmland and wetlands. And Mr. Ford is teaming up with climate change deniers like William van Wijngaarden to fight young people in court who argue for a viable future,” he said in a statement.
Environmental leader Mike Schreiner reiterated his call for a “real climate plan” that would halve pollution by 2030.
“Our wallets depend on our action. Our lives and our livelihoods depend on climate action. And our future and that of our children depend on climate action,” he told reporters at Queen’s Park.