Monday, March 07, 2022

The massive cost of climate change

How much will climate change cost us? Waikato Regional Council looked at just one aspect - coastal defences for a handful of Coromandel holiday towns - and found it would cost them $1.1 billion:

[W]hile there are no ballpark costings done yet on a regional basis, a new report is hinting they could be a very hefty burden for ratepayers and other funders.

Information prepared for this week’s Waikato Regional Council climate action committee says there’s a potential $1.1 billion price tag up to 2120 for coastal defence works at eight key Coromandel sites.

To put that in context, that's 10% of WRC's entire rates income, every year, for a century. And that's just to protect these eight towns. The real cost - fire, flooding, relocating infrastructure - will be substantially higher. And that's just one local authority. Other councils all around the country will be facing similar costs, which will likely only get higher as climate change begins to bite.

The "keep rates low" brigade will no doubt be pushing for us (or rather, them) not to pay those costs, or not to pay them yet. Which means pushing them onto future generations, or paying them in fire and flood and cleanup, or in reduced quality of life (or all of the above). But one way or another, we will be paying them; the only question is how.

Of course, we could reduce the amount we have to pay, by reducing emissions instead, and encouraging other countries to do the same. Rapidly cutting the most damaging greenhouse gas - methane - will substantially reduce warming, hence damage and the cost of protecting against it. That means polluters paying now. But that seems significantly fairer, since the costs of climate change are really costs polluters are dumping on the rest of us. The polluters made this problem, so as far as possible, they should be the ones to pay for it.