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Northern Ontario living, 2027

Have you thought about how climate change will affect your life in Northern Ontario over the next 10 years?
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David Robinson, economist, Laurentian University/director, Institute for Northern Ontario Research and Development

You probably think that you are taking climate change seriously. Have you thought about how it will affect your life in Northern Ontario over the next 10 years?

You will be doing OK economically in 2027. The Canadian economy will do well. The national debt will keep falling as a share of GDP. Some of your neighbours will already have electric cars, and there will be a lot of new electronic toys. There will be new treatments for obesity, diabetes and several kinds of cancer.

Energy-saving tech will be cheaper. Dinner-table conversations will be spent on discussing whether Chinese solar panels are better than the Korean ones, and whether Tesla’s home battery is a better deal than Toshiba’s. Home Hardware will be selling a device to capture heat from shower water as it goes down the drain. Canadian Tire will have heat-capture ventilators for the bathroom. You may have bought automated insulated curtains. You will pay a deposit on all plastic bottles, tin cans and bags. 

People working to attract immigrants to the North will get a big surprise. There will be a small flood of well-off Americans fleeing Florida, Texas and the Carolinas. They will want to bring their guns. Torontonians pushed out by the flood of climate refugees and sky-high housing prices will flood north. Northern young people will be staying in the North for the cheap housing and good weather.

It won’t all be peaches and cream. You and the kids will be sad about the extinctions – TV will be tracking the last polar bears, and whales. Greenpeace will be trying to stop fishing for the last tuna. You won’t be taking trips to Florida – by 2027 air travel will be seen as a kind of climate crime by many of your friends. You won’t be barbecuing as much either. Beef has a carbon footprint 11 times bigger than tofu turkey. It is going to get a lot more expensive, and your kids will think you are an irresponsible slimeball if you insist on eating g a lot of meat. You will probably get to like tofu turkey. You may even try vat-grown chicken.

Your gas-powered vehicles will have zero trade-in value. The forest industry in the northwest will suffer low productivity and big fires. Smokey days will be common.

Your life will change in dozens of ways, but a lot of the changes will be easy and some will be fun. 

The biggest change will be how you feel. For 30 years, you have heard scientists forecast floods, fires, extinctions and hurricanes. Today you are seeing the forecasts come true. By 2027, you will be hearing about mass migrations and wars. We will be talking about turning refugee ships away from our shores. You will be suffering from “survivor guilt.”

Forecasts will be much scarier in 2017. You won’t be discussing climate change: you will be talking about arctic methane burps and climate engineering. You will be living with a rising sense of dread.

The news will be a sickening mix of feel-good trivia and disaster. Suicide rates will rise. Suicide rates in India doubled over the last 30 years as drought and crop failure drove farmers into poverty and despair. Three and four years after Katrina, the suicide rate in New Orleans was about twice as high as it was the two years before the levees broke. You won’t really know what to say to your kids or grandchildren.

Sometime between now and 2027, you will understand that our cap-and-trade and rinky-dink carbon taxes aren’t working. You will vote for the party that promises to double or triple the carbon price. 

Since a carbon price high enough to make people change would by itself cripple the economy, you will be getting a “carbon dividend.” The average family’s carbon footprint today is 4.4 tonnes per person per year. You will get a $360 monthly carbon cheque. You will use it to finance an electric car, solar panels, a ground-source heat pump and triple-glazed windows.

These changes will come once you start asking for real climate action. Until then? Keep worrying.