Climate crisis threatens to explode infrastructure costs in Canada

The impacts of climate change put at great risk critical infrastructure in Canada, such as homes, roads and electricity transmission networks, concludes a federally funded study. The document, which estimates the cost of damage at several billion dollars per year, warns that the country “could be completely overwhelmed” if adaptation measures are not implemented quickly.

With its important coastal zones, its numerous rivers, its vast territory where the road network is very extensive, as well as the electricity distribution network, Canada is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This finding is all the more true as the country is warming up on average twice as fast as the world average.

However, “the extent of the risks to Canadian infrastructure is poorly understood,” notes the most comprehensive report to date, entitled “Overwhelmed: The Costs of Climate Change for Infrastructure in Canada” and published Wednesday by the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices.

Huge costs

Acknowledging the growing vulnerability of residential areas and other buildings to coastal and inland flooding, amid rising sea levels and more intense rainfall, the authors estimate that the annual damage costs could climb to 4 , 5 billion dollars, even 5.5 billion dollars by 2050. This represents “costs three to four times higher than today”.

The impacts of global warming on the country’s roads and railways could cause maintenance and rehabilitation costs to rise to the order of $ 5.4 billion each year by mid-century and 12, $ 8 billion a year by the end of the century. Such a rise in costs, in the case of roads, would add a significant financial burden to municipalities, which are responsible for most of the country’s roads, warns Julien Bourque, research associate at the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices.

Other very extensive infrastructures in the territory, the electricity transmission and distribution networks risk being adversely affected by the increased heat and precipitation, which should substantially increase the provinces’ annual bill for their maintenance.

Even though the anticipated bill is already in the tens of billions of dollars, the report’s authors say their data is “conservative,” as climate science evolves and other “critical infrastructure” is at risk of being damaged in a remote environment. context of climate disturbed by human activity. They mention in particular the telecommunications and drinking water supply networks, health establishments, ports and sea lanes.

In a previous report published earlier this year, the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices also warned that the repercussions of climate upheavals foreshadow “astronomical costs” in health in Canada over the coming decades, but also an unprecedented increase in the number of premature deaths.

Risks in Quebec

Whether it is for roads, buildings or the electricity distribution network, the findings of the report for Canada are just as valid for Quebec, underlines the director general of the Ouranos climatology consortium, Alain Bourque.

For example, the most recent assessment posted by Ouranos estimates that 5,300 buildings, more than 1,300 lots and nearly 300 kilometers of road are at risk of being “lost” by 2065, due to coastal erosion. The Ministry of Transport has already identified 273 road segments now considered vulnerable in the eastern part of the province.

In this context, adaptation to the impacts of global warming becomes essential, according to the report published on Wednesday. “If we do not act immediately to minimize future loss and damage according to the information we have, we could be completely overwhelmed by the acceleration of climate change and its repercussions on our infrastructure,” insist the authors.

An opinion shared by Alain Bourque, who believes that “governments do not yet understand the importance of the expected impacts of climate change, even if we reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” He also pleads for taking global warming into account in future infrastructure projects and in the repair of existing ones.

Failure to implement “resilience” policies now, he warns, the costs will be exorbitant later. These costs could even compromise public investments, which are crucial in a context of energy transition and the fight against the climate crisis, according to Julien Bourque.

“If nothing is done to adapt new and existing infrastructure to the effects of a changing climate, they will not be reliable enough to support a carbon neutral Canadian economy “, Notes the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices, in its new report funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

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