Ontarians head to the polls in six months. It’s hard to predict what the public mood will be on June 2 as voters make their way to the ballot box, but it’s safe to say aside from having a chance to weigh in on how they felt the pandemic was managed in the province, issues around affordability will be of top concern for most.
And if you care about affordability, you should care about climate change. While Conservative politicians across Canada have done a very good job of maligning climate change mitigation as fundamentally unaffordable, the reality is, if we don’t act now on climate change, we’ll be dealt a much higher bill down the road.
In 2019, Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner called on the Financial Accountability Office (FAO) to report on the financial costs of climate change, specifically the financial impact on the province’s public assets. On Dec. 7, the report was released.
It’s important to note the report itself was limited to direct costs on public assets. Indirect costs — such as deaths, power outages, supply chain disruptions, or damage to privately owned buildings — were not covered. Additionally, the report only focused on three aspects of climate change: extreme heat, extreme rainfall, and freeze-thaw cycles.
And even with those limitations, the figures in the report are daunting: “In the medium emissions scenario, the FAO estimates that by 2100, additional infrastructure-related costs of maintaining Ontario’s public buildings could range from $29 billion (3.7 per cent higher than baseline) to $134 billion (16.8 per cent) by 2100. In the high emissions scenario, these additional costs could range from $55 billion (6.9 per cent) to $232 billion (29 per cent) by 2100.”
In the nearer term, assuming a stable climate for the rest of this decade, we’re looking at a massive increase: “The FAO estimates that in the absence of adaptation, the cumulative cost of maintaining public buildings in a state of good repair will increase by about $6 billion relative to baseline spending in a stable climate over the remainder of this decade (2022-30).”
None of this is good news. It’s particularly grim once one considers that Doug Ford and the PCs haven’t just stalled on the climate file but have been actively hostile to meaningful action on climate change.
One of the first policy actions of the Ford government was to cancel Ontario’s cap-and-trade program, which led to the scrapping of a number of green initiatives, including retrofitting homes and businesses with more energy-efficient technologies and rebates for electric vehicles (EV). The Ford government also cancelled hundreds upon hundreds of renewable energy projects, and famously lost a court battle that compelled gas stations to put stickers rife with misleading information about the federal price on carbon on the pumps.
With Ford at the helm, Ontario has undoubtedly slid backwards in the fight against climate change with myopic and populist policy decisions.
Ford might not care about the climate in the same way or for the same reasons that more left-leaning politicians do, and ultimately we don’t need him to. We just need him to take the profound implications of climate change seriously. If the loss of human or animal life isn’t convincing, then perhaps the fiscal impacts will be.
Opinion: Doug Ford's #climate negligence comes at a big cost for #Ontario voters, @natobserver columnist @supriyadwivedi writes. #onpoli #ClimateCrisis #ClimateEmergency
No reasonable person can contend climate change does not pose significant costs. In addition to the daunting numbers in the FAO report, consider the fact that according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, insured damage caused by extreme weather events cost $2.4 billion in 2020. Climate change is already costing us a lot of money.
In the last election, the Progressive Conservatives were wildly successful in framing the issue of climate change action as being an affront to regular, everyday voters. Indeed, Ford and the PCs tried to paint anyone who understood the science behind climate change — and was compelled to want to do something about it — as an out-of-touch elitist hell-bent on wasting taxpayer dollars.
Ford basically built his political brand as being the definitive champion of the taxpayer. It’s all but certain that in the upcoming campaign, Ford and the Ontario PCs will once again claim to be the only party that respects taxpayers and their hard-earned dollars. However, without meaningful policies to help mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, the claim to be looking out for taxpayers falls apart.