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Former Calgary councillor thinks the unthinkable in the heart of oil country. The devastating flash floods that swamped much of southern Alberta — including Calgary’s downtown core — have suddenly made the projected effects of climate change quite tangible.
Climate change is no longer just a concept or a gaggle of statistics. It means soggy, smelly houses, apartment and office towers without working elevators, and shuttered restaurants.
The costs are also quite tangible. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi estimates that restoring city infrastructure and facilities will cost between $250 million and $500 million. Estimates of the total damage in Calgary run between $3 billion and $5 billion. Premier Alison Redford has pledged $1 billion for immediate aid, cleanup and reconstruction throughout the province.
But where is this money going to come from? And if extreme weather events are to become more frequent, how are we going to pay for the damage from future disasters? This is the second major flood in Calgary in seven years. Bob Hawkesworth has an answer that seems obvious, especially in Alberta.
“It’s appropriate that Premier Redford tax the source of the problem — carbon pollution — in order to help pay for the cleanup and reconstruction,” says Hawkesworth, who was a Calgary city councillor for 23 years, ran for mayor in 2010, and most recently headed up Alberta’s Municipal Climate Change Action Centre, a collaborative effort of the provincial and municipal governments.
“We need to deal with the causes of these disasters as well as the symptoms,” Hawkesworth said during an interview.
Of course, this is not a popular idea in Alberta where the oil and gas industry is crucial to the province’s economy. But oilsands development has surged ahead so rapidly in the past decade it is now Canada’s largest single emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, the main culprit when it comes to global warming and climate change.
Carbon taxes are a reality in British Columbia and the economy hasn’t cratered. Alberta already imposes a tax of sorts on industrial carbon but it is minimal and doesn’t really prod polluters into cleaning up their act.
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