Climate change effect on public transportation infrastructure to cost billions: FAO

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Ontario’s financial watchdog says the effects of climate change are projected to cost the province an extra $1.5 billion a year on average in the next few years just to maintain public transportation infrastructure.

The roads, bridges, large structural culverts and rail tracks owned by Ontario’s municipal and provincial governments are valued at $330 billion (all costs are in 2020 real dollars). Ontario’s 444 municipalities own 82 per cent of this portfolio while the remaining 18 per cent is owned by the province.

CIPI: Transportation – Assessing the financial impacts of extreme rainfall, extreme heat and freeze-thaw cycles on transportation infrastructure in Ontario, released Thursday by the Financial Accountability Office says that over the next nine years, maintaining that infrastructure would have cost $11 billion a year if the climate was stable, but climate-related costs will push it to about $13 billion by 2030.

The report examines how changes in extreme rainfall, extreme heat and freeze-thaw cycles will impact the long-term costs of maintaining public transportation infrastructure in a state of good repair.

If global emissions peak by mid-century, climate hazards will increase infrastructure costs by $2.2 billion a year on average, without any climate adaptation, and if emissions instead continue rising beyond 2050, those costs will increase by $4.1 billion a year on average.

The FAO says that adapting transportation infrastructure to withstand extreme rainfall, extreme heat and freeze-thaw cycles would be much less expensive.

The report says that adaptation would add between $1.4 billion and $2.9 billion a year between now and the year 2100. Additional highlights in the report include:

  • Over the next nine years, maintaining infrastructure would have cost $11 billion per year on average if the climate was stable. However, changes in extreme rainfall, extreme heat, and freeze-thaw cycles are projected to raise these infrastructure costs by $1.5 billion per year on average. These climate-related costs would accumulate to $13 billion by 2030.
  • Over the 1976-2005 period, there were on average four days every year with daily maximum temperature above 30°C. Ontario’s annual number of hot days in the 2071-2100 period are projected to be 34 days in the median projection of the high emissions scenario.
  • Over the 1976-2005 period, there were on average 103 mm of rain in 24 hours during a 1-in-100-year rainfall event. By the 2071-2100 period, there is projected to be 158 mm of rain in 24 hours during a 1-in-100-year rainfall event on average across Ontario in the median projection of the high emissions scenario.
  • Costing the economic impacts to households and businesses of climate-related disruptions to transportation networks was beyond the scope of this report. These costs would be material and if added, would likely show further benefits of adapting public transportation infrastructure. Estimating these impacts would be a useful area of future research.

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