Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to read that permafrost degradation would cost $200 million annually. It originally stated incorrectly permafrost would cost $250,000 per year.
Northerners who heat their homes with oil are included in the federal government’s three-year freeze on carbon tax.
An Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) spokesman confirmed on Oct. 27 the NWT’s roughly 29,500 oil-heated homes would fall under the new rules, should the GNWT chose to stop collecting the tax.
“Yes, this could also apply to the NWT,” said ECCC spokesman Oliver Anderson. “The federal pollution pricing system sets a benchmark for carbon pricing that all provinces and territories must meet. Some provinces opt for the federally-administered system.
“The territories all administer their own systems that comply with the benchmark. So while the temporary pause on heating oil will come into effect in two weeks for provinces with the federally-administered system, the territories and other provinces with their own systems can also chose to make the adjustment, as long as they meet the federal benchmark.”
Anderson also noted that while part of the federal government’s climate change mitigation plan includes replacing aging boiler units with modern electric heat pumps, officials were aware of heat pump limitations in cold temperatures and have been in talks with the GNWT about other possible options.
“Understanding that heat pumps are known to operate in cold temperatures — minus 30 and getting better all the time — there is an understanding that the cold weather in the North may require other solutions,” he said. “Environment and Climate Change Canada has already been engaged in discussion with the NWT on what other solutions could work best that reduce the dependency of Northern homes on fossil fuels. Those discussions have related to the Low Carbon Economy Fund program and are continuing.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement Oct. 26, saying the decision was from feedback from Atlantic Liberal MPs, who said their constituents were angry at the high fuel costs.
Climate change is wreaking havoc on the North, particularly in smaller communities. Just about all of Enterprise was destroyed by wildfires sparked by extremely dry weather conditions and Hay River has been evacuated three times in the past two years due to either excessive flooding or wildfires. Wildfires also forced the evacuation of Yellowknife late this summer. Tuktoyaktuk is expected to not exist within 50 years because of soil erosion due to less ice protecting the coast from increasingly strong ocean waves.
A study released on Oct. 12 by the World Health Organization is predicting climate change will cause an average of 250,000 additional deaths each year from 2030 on, largely from under-nutrition and heat stress, but also from communicable diseases such as malaria, which is spreading in an expanded range. Costs to maintain human health over the coming decades are projected to be between $2 billion and $4 billion each year by 2030.
The Canadian Climate Institute is projecting damages to roads caused by permafrost thaw will cost taxpayers $200 million annually. Flood damage is forecast to cost a minimum of $60 million per year, which could grow to $300 million annually by 2030. Since 2010, the cost of climate-related disasters has swallowed up between five to six per cent of the country’s GDP per year.
Climate change is also expected to be an overall drag on the economy, projected to slow economic growth by 50 per cent in 2025.