by Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on Monday March 20 2023
Up to 60 per cent of some employment sectors in the Kootenay region could suffer labour market losses due to the effects of wildfire and climate disaster, according to a report from an independent think tank.
A Climate Reckoning: The economic costs of BC’s extreme weather in 2021, provides an estimate of the total economic costs associated with 2021’s back-to-back extreme weather events, including a breakdown for the Kootenay region by job sector.
Published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives through their B.C. office, the estimated costs to the region and the province’s economy from the 2021 heat dome, wildfires, flooding and landslides could be more than $10.6 billion.
“If ever there was a year that underscores the costs of climate change, 2021 was it,” said lead author Marc Lee, a CCPA B.C. senior economist, in a release. “The costs go way beyond insured losses, which are typically the focus in the aftermath of disasters like those we saw (in 2021).”
The report estimated the lost wages from temporary or permanent business closures due to the flooding and wildfires or to work lost due to the extreme heat, which resulted in unsafe working conditions that made it impossible, in some cases, to carry on. The report estimates that impacted workers collectively lost up to $2.6 billion.
“As shown in this report the climate crisis affects us all, but some people are much more vulnerable to its impacts,” said Jonathan Fowlie, Vancity’s chief external relations officer who oversees the credit union’s impact and climate efforts, in a release on the report.
The Kootenay labour market sector affected the most by the losses is metal manufacturing (60 per cent), while wood product manufacturing, forestry and logging and accommodation and food services at 50 per cent followed behind.
Wholesale trade and transportation and warehousing was estimated at 40 per cent, with retail trade and social services and childcare at 30 per cent impacted.
Lee said that the events of 2021 were “a prelude to what can be expected in the months and years ahead, and not just here” in the province.
“We must prepare and plan for adaptation to a warmer world. My hope is that the bigger picture on the economic costs associated with … climate events serves to underscore the need for immediate action to prepare for the impacts we can no longer prevent and to reduce emissions so we avert the worst effects of climate change,” he said.
The research was funded by Vancity Credit Union.