Apparently climate change could cost Ontario billyuns of dollars. Like billyuns, man. See “In a new report tabled Tuesday at Queen’s Park, the Financial Accountability Office predicted extreme rainfall, heat and quickening freeze-thaw cycles will ravage public buildings like hospitals, schools, public transit systems, universities, colleges and government offices.” Ravage! Yikes. We’re in a heap of trouble, folks. Uh, except for one thing. The estimated costs of all this climate damage is chump change compared to what we’re throwing at climate policies that won’t do anything to stop it anyway.
Indeed the ravaging costs are a rounding error to the most indebted sub-national jurisdiction in the world. To get a sense of the true scale of government spending, including in Ontario, its latest budget web page begins by boasting of spewing $51 billion on just one issue and it’s not climate. Then, as modern budgets will, it rambles on about how incredibly great and focus-grouped the spending plan is under this regime, while mentioning in passing that spending is now around $186 billion, revenue only $154 but what the heck it’s only money so borrowing $32 billion a year is prudence. (As is $13 billion a year in interest alone.) As usual, spending is rising quickly, even excluding COVID-specific items, but will level off in a few years because we’re the best.
So what’s in this ravaging report about buildings crumbling and budgets going with them? Well, it seems that the Ontario government owns about $254 billion worth of buildings and other facilities, and it would cost about $10 billion a year to maintain them properly, which they currently aren’t. But if the world ends due to climate breakdown, the Star hyperventilates, the number could rise by nearly $6 billion.
Six billion a year? Well, um, no. “Even in a scenario where greenhouse gas emissions peak in the 2040s and then rapidly decline, he [financial accountability officer Peter Weltman] predicted an additional $800 million annually in maintenance costs. If emissions continue to rise, it could be an extra $1.5 billion a year.” So it’s $6 billion over nine years. Which is just peanuts to the most indebted subnational entity in the world.
Indeed spending in Ontario, again not counting the COVID explosion, is already prudently rising by between five and nine billion a year. So what’s another $800 million? And what’s “ravaged” anyway? London in the Blitz, perhaps. Your village after Genghis Khan drops by. Banda Aceh after the 2004 tsunami. Not the John P. Robarts Research Library if the temperature goes up another 0.3°C.
According to the Star, “The fiscal office undertook the review in 2019 after a request from Green Leader Mike Schreiner, who said the findings underscore the ‘need to be honest with Ontarians about the costs of the climate crisis.’ ‘It is abundantly clear: the cost of inaction far exceeds the cost of climate action. Climate change is nature’s tax on everything,’ said Schreiner.” But not so fast.
The “cost of inaction,” if it means anything, should mean the difference between the damages from climate change if we do nothing, and the damages if we take action. But as every expert agrees, the actions we are thinking of taking are so minuscule in comparison to the scale of the issue they don’t change the outcome. So whatever the damages from climate change, they aren’t reduced by action, nor are they raised by inaction. So the costs of inaction are … zero.
Unlike climate “action.” Just taking the carbon tax as an example, Ontarians seem to use about 14 billion litres of gasoline a year, so if you imposed an 8.8 cent carbon tax per litre it would cost people in the province $1.2 billion a year. And that number only scratches the surface of the “cost of climate action,” which also includes a long list of even costlier policies. And those are just the start. If you want to raise the cost of gasoline sufficiently to cut consumption in half, the cost of your “climate action” is going to exceed this apocalyptic $800 million a year, or even $1.5 billion, many times over. Oops. Not to mention that behind the money is the stuff, and if you really took away Ontarians’ fossil fuels you’d cost them hundreds of billions a year in quality of life. All to save a mere $800 million on repairs, which you wouldn’t save anyway because the buildings will need the repairs either way.
In an apparently unrelated story, Eric Worrall says scientists say teach math. Specifically, nearly 600 (as of December 5) had signed an open letter stressing the importance of mathematics. “All of us have first-hand experience of the role that clear mathematical thinking has played in advancing information technology and American economic competitiveness.” And they worry that in the name of inclusion, and hipness, schools are neglecting calculus and algebra. Well, we’d like to put in a plea for teaching statistics, and then economics, so journalists don’t ravage you with hyperbolic prose about sums so small a government auditor would have trouble finding them.