When I hear about climate change in the news, I rarely hear about the most pertinent issues like how it affects our health. Typically, the discussion sets up a battle between the economy and the environment — no way that the economy and the environment are actually interconnected, right?
A new report from the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy (NRTEE), however, looks into the economic costs of climate change. The NRTEE calculates that the effects of climate change will cost the Canadian economy at least $5 billion a year by 2020, and between $21 billion and $43 billion a year, possibly more, by 2050. The study only looked at a few categories of impacts. No doubt there will be others.
What can people do to help stop climate change? They should learn to adapt, according to the report. Although the NRTEE agreed that the Canadian government needs to do more to deal with climate change, its proposed recommendations tend to focus on adaption strategies, such as installing green roofs and prohibiting new construction in coastal areas with high flood risks. These are important insurance strategies against unchecked climate change.
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The importance of mitigation, however, should not be forgotten. If Canada continues on its current path, including rapid expansion of the oil sands, we will continue to make the problems of climate change worse, and thus more difficult to overcome.
More importantly, as individuals and Canadians, we have a choice about our future. We have solutions to dramatically reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions and protect our communities and ecosystems while improving our quality of life, with cleaner air, less traffic congestion and healthier people. For instance, we can make a choice to take public transit, use renewable power, eat more responsibly, get involved with others in our community who also want action and vote for government leaders who will invest in these solutions and make it easier for citizens and businesses to help fight climate change.
Of course, adaptation measures will also be needed; however, these will work best when combined with strategies to reduce emissions that cause climate change. And it's up to us as Canadians to realize we have choices, and that our decisions today can build a brighter future for tomorrow.