Source: Daily Climate
Extreme weather caused by climate change is exacerbating the need to repair the province’s aging roads, bridges, waterworks and other infrastructure, warns a leading business group.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce predicts that “damaging and costly events are expected to increase, in both number and scale, as the climate warms, increasing pressure on current infrastructure and demanding new assets that can respond to extreme events.”
In a 39-page report on the province’s infrastructure planning, the organization, which represents 60,000 members across the province, said the changing climate is bad for more than just the environment.
“Costly damage to infrastructure because of extreme weather events has become common in recent years,” the chamber said, citing the toll of everything from floods in Toronto to melting ice roads in northern Ontario.
“The average natural disaster costs the economy $130 billion and lowers GDP (gross domestic product) by approximately 2 per cent. This is attributable to the rising occurrence of severe weather affecting urban areas that have high-density populations and high-value assets,” it said.
“In the aftermath of a disaster, lost tax revenue and demands for relief and reconstruction place enormous fiscal strain on governments. On average, it is estimated that natural disasters increase public budget deficits by 25 per cent.”
With Queen’s Park developing a new long-term infrastructure plan, the chamber said it is essential that the province ensures anything built is “resilient and adaptable to climate change.”
Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli will release the government’s blueprint for building new projects by the end of this year.
“It’s no secret that decades of underinvestment have created a significant infrastructure deficit. That’s one of the reasons we have committed to an unprecedented $190 billion, 13-year infrastructure investment that will result in new and renewed hospitals, schools, roads, and public transit across the province,” said Alex Benac, Chiarelli’s press secretary.
“We’re glad that the (chamber) recognizes both the need for this investment and the benefits it will have for people across the province,” Benac said Thursday, noting the province is now consulting with experts on the long-term plan.
“It will consider Ontario’s existing infrastructure, the anticipated needs of our growing population, and next steps to help address those needs well into the future.”
The chamber estimates that for every dollar spent on infrastructure, around $1.14 in economic activity is generated.
“Increased investment in infrastructure also spreads throughout the economy via a series of multiplier effects,” it noted.