12 Sep, 2023
What are the Financial Costs of Climate Change in the Prairie Provinces?
Decision-makers face significant challenges when it comes to responding to a changing climate. There are many different considerations depending on the size, geography and unique characteristics of each community or organization. Regardless of the differences, all decision-makers should ask themselves the same question: what might it cost if we do nothing?
Understanding the economic consequences of climate change is crucial in determining when and how much to invest in adaptation. This information is particularly important in the Prairie provinces which are a hotspot for climate change – not just within Canada, but across the world (Loxley, 2022). Findings from a 2020-21 regional survey identified that Prairies region communities want more data on the impacts of climate change and how local business, infrastructure, and human health are affected. ClimateWest’s newly-released Costs of Climate Change on the Prairies report, prepared by All One Sky Foundation addresses this need.
“Decision-makers across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba need to be equipped with accurate and regionally-relevant data to help them make informed choices. Our latest report will support them in assessing risks and actions to protect people, assets and the environment,” states Elaine Fox, ClimateWest’s Board Chair. “The data in this report presents a strong business case for investment in proactive adaptation, which ultimately will save them money in the long run.”
The Costs of Climate Change on the Prairies report highlights that “while our changing climate is anticipated to bring some benefits for the Prairies, the total economic impact is projected to be overwhelmingly negative and significant.” The report is based on the findings of several previous studies and detailed assessments for the City of Edmonton and the City of Calgary, and identifies economic losses per sector that are attributable to climate change.
Key findings across climate-sensitive sectors analyzed in the report based on a high emissions scenario include:
*Note the report indicates these estimates as optimistic as they do not account for some other significant challenges that climate change presents. For example, climate extremes affecting the agriculture sector are projected to intensify, including heat stress and impacts to water availability, as well as increased risks of pests, vector-borne diseases and invasive species.
The report also examines insured losses by province from extreme weather up to 2021. While the combined losses across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba are conservatively estimated at almost $16 Billion per year by the 2050s under a high emissions scenario, over half of these losses are in Alberta because of its larger population, asset inventory and economy. On an annual per capita basis, the largest losses are expected to occur in Manitoba ($2,235 per person), followed by Saskatchewan ($1,875 per person), then Alberta ($1,300 per person).
Many of the report findings were presented by the author, Dr. Richard Boyd at the inaugural ClimateWest Forum, held in May 2023 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Two of the key takeaways from the Forum were that proactive climate adaptation action offers a good return on investment, and that there is a need to scale up adaptation investments to match the risks that Canadians face. Per year, one study estimated that 0.26% of GDP is needed nationally to be invested in municipal climate adaptation investments (IBC & FCM, 2020).
As decision-makers increasingly want more information on the economic consequences of climate change, the Costs of Climate Change on the Prairies report supports a strong business case for proactive climate adaptation in the Prairies provinces and beyond.
To learn more about the economic impact of climate change in the Prairies, read the full report.
What next? If you have questions about this report or how to take the next steps, reach out to our Help Desk by calling 204-995-6514 or email us at email@example.com. You can also check out our publications page for further resources that might be relevant to you.
Confused? We strive to talk about climate adaptation in approachable, easy-to-understand language. However, if you are unsure of any of the terms or concepts used in this article, visit our Get Started page or take a look at these resources:
- Climate Change Concepts, Environment and Climate Change Canada
- Climate Change: The Basics, Prairie Climate Centre
- Glossary and Learning Zone, ClimateData.ca
Loxley, M. (2022). A Snapshot of the Changing Prairie Climate, Prairie Climate Centre for ClimateWest. https://climatewest.ca/publications/a-snapshot-of-the-changing-prairie-climate/.