National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Releases Canada’s First Analysis of the Costs of Climate Change

Sep 29, 2011 | Government News

Climate Change Could be Expensive for Canada

Click here to access the report

Unless global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are brought down and Canada invests in adaptation, the economic impacts of climate change on Canada could climb to billions of dollars per year, according to a new report released today by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRT).  

Paying the Price: the Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada – the fourth report in the NRT’s Climate Prosperity series – is the first national study to show what the economic consequences to Canada could be as a result of climate change, under four separate scenarios involving two factors: global GHG emissions and Canadian economic and population growth. 

Report Findings

Although Canada contributes approximately 1.5% of global emissions, the report concludes that climate change impacts brought about by increased world-wide emissions have a real and growing economic cost to Canada.  It also shows that adaptation – our capacity to manage the impacts to come – while not cost-free, is a cost-effective way to alleviate some of those impacts.

Based on NRT original economic modelling, the report finds that the economic impact on Canada could reach: 

  • 2020: $5 billion per year
  • 2050: Between $21 and $43 billion per year

The report also estimates a five per cent chance that costs could escalate to $91 billion in 2050 if Canada’s population and economic growth is rapid and global climate change is high.  

Because climate change impacts will manifest themselves sectorally and regionally in different ways across the country, the NRT also focused on the economic impacts and cost-effectiveness of adaptation strategies for three representative areas:  timber supply, coastal areas and human health.  

In the 2050s:

  • Timber supply impacts could range from $2 billion to $17 billion per year with high impacts in B.C.
  • Flooding damages to coastal dwellings, resulting from climate change-induced sea-level rise and storm surges, could cost between $1 billion to $8 billion per year with higher than average cost impacts in Atlantic Canada
  • Poorer air quality resulting from higher temperatures will lead to more hospital visits, resulting in millions of dollars in costs to local health care systems for four of Canada’s major cities – Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver and Calgary

The NRT also assessed if cost savings would occur as a result of proactive climate adaptation measures such as enhanced forest fire management and restricting coastal development in flood-prone areas. The report concludes that adaptation can save money by reducing the physical and economic impacts of climate change. The economic benefits of investing in adaptation outweighed the costs of simply letting rising climate impacts and costs occur in most instances. 

“Climate change has a price tag and it could be expensive,” said NRT President and CEO, David McLaughlin.  “While our report makes it clear that getting global emissions down is both in our economic and environmental interest, it also shows that adaptation is key in reducing impacts on people, places and prosperity.”

Specific recommendations include further investment by the Government of Canada in increasing our country’s expertise in the economics of climate change impacts and adaptation, and further use of economic analysis to inform allocation of adaptation funding.  The report also recommends that all levels of governments continue investing in producing and disseminating research to guide adaptation decision-making by business, communities, and individuals. 

“This report sets out to help all of us – governments, business, and communities – to make climate-wise investment choices now, and in the future.  The economic information we provide here will further help us understand what is at stake if we fail to respond and GHG emissions continue to rise,” said NRT Vice-Chair Robert Slater.

About the Round Table

Through the development of innovative policy research and considered advice, the NRT’s mission is to help Canada achieve sustainable development solutions that integrate environmental and economic considerations to ensure the lasting prosperity and well-being of our nation.  The NRT is the only national organization with a direct mandate from Parliament to engage Canadians in the generation and promotion of sustainable development advice.

The report is available on the Round Table’s website: 



Marie-Josée Lapointe
Director, Communications and Public Affairs
National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy
613.943.2054 / 613.617.4436
[email protected]

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