Climate Inaction – Cost to Taxpayers

I think the saying goes – “a penny wise – a pound foolish”.  It is one of those idioms that you wonder just where it came from and how long its been around.  But it sure rang true this week as Toronto City Council debated who would pay for the $106 million dollars in ice storm damages.  The cost could wipe out the city’s 2013 surplus of $93 million (money generated by cutbacks to services like – uh – tree trimming over hydro lines).

We are starting to look a little silly.  By ignoring climate change in order to “save taxpayers money” (as Mayor Ford would say),  it is – well – costing taxpayers money.  The Alberta floods cost in excess of $ 2 billion and the December ice storm is at $.25 billion and growing.  Officials are saying that Federal and Provincial disaster relief funds are not going to be able to keep up at this rate.

US Climate Cost Exceeds $ 1 Trillion

weatherrelatedcosts

According to NOAA, the U.S. sustained over 144 weather/climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. The total cost of these 144 events exceeds $1 trillion.  I couldn’t readily find the Canadian figures.

 

Inaction on Climate Change Costs Taxpayers Money

ceres2A recent study by Ceres entitled “Inaction on Climate Change: The Cost to Taxpayers” (Oct. 2013) recently noted: “When we examine the full costs of public programs that pay for disaster relief and recovery from extreme weather events-ad hoc disaster assistance appropriations, flood insurance, crop insurance, wild fire protection, and state run “residual market” insurance programs-we can begin to understand the price to U.S. taxpayers of inaction on climate change. Each of these programs is highly exposed to catastrophic weather events. As climate change results in more frequent, volatile and damaging extreme weather across the country, the potential liabilities of these public programs and the bottom line costs to all of us will soar.

We all bear an additional burden: we pick up the tab for damages from extreme weather events that are neither insured by the private insurance market nor reimbursed by government programs. Continuing to ignore these escalating risks may be more comfortable than confronting the many challenges of adapting to and slowing down climate change, but inaction is the far riskier and more expensive path.”

The Ceres report calls for more transparency on extreme weather costs, research, mitigation, adaptation and greater involvement of insurance partners using pricing insurance premiums that consider the use of forward-looking catastrophe risk modeling.

Stern Said Pay Now or Much More Later

Perhaps it is time we started to make investments in our future again.  Maybe it is not all about cost cutting.  Sir Nicholas Stern said we could invest 1% of GDP now to mitigate and adapt to climate change or we can pay 20% of GDP later, as we try to pick up the pieces.   

Join the Sustainability Movement - Donate to the Sustainability Learning Centre's Student Scholarship Program

About Kathryn Cooper

Kathryn Cooper is a committed sustainability practitioner and educator moving companies toward “green” profitability and sustainable competitive advantage by unlocking human creativity and technical innovation. Over the last two years she has had the privilege to work with companies like Dupont, Zerofootprint, WWF Canada, and Partners in Project Green on sustainability issues, best practices and renewable energy. Kathryn is a graduate of York University with a Master of Education specializing on Sustainability and the Environment. She holds an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Guelph.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>