Estimating Future Costs for Infrastructure in the Proposed Canadian Northern Corridor at Risk From Climate Change


  • Nathan S. Debortoli
  • Tristan Pearce
  • James D. Ford



This paper reviews current climate change projections for northern Canada and considers what these mean for infrastructure development in the proposed Canadian Northern Corridor (CNC). We focus on chokepoints along the corridor’s notional route and estimate future costs of infrastructure along the chokepoints. We draw upon climate change projections at the end of the century (2100) using information from several climate variables sourced on the CMIP6 and CMIP5 reports. Climate variables include means

and extreme values for temperature, precipitation, wind and their indirect impacts on physical features: permafrost, freezing rain and wildfires. In terms of infrastructure costs, we investigate investment costs and the useful life of nine sectors within transportation, energy and buildings infrastructures. The findings of our analysis show that mean temperatures within the CNC area could increase by 10.9oC, and precipitation by 45 per cent by 2100. Climate change could create chokepoints along the CNC route, affecting key areas essential for transportation flow. Central regions of the corridor are projected to have a higher probability of receiving concomitant impacts on several chokepoints, including combined threats from the increasing frequency of wildfires, freezing rain and permafrost thaw. Adding a climatic layer to investment costs within CNC chokepoints can increase infrastructure costs by more than 101 per cent. Transportation engineering infrastructure, electric power infrastructure and the institutional buildings sectors are most likely to be impacted. Just considering a climate layer to current infrastructure increases costs by more than $12 billion for several hazards such as freezing precipitation (especially Alberta and BC), $7 billion for wildfires (especially BC) and more than $400 million for permafrost (especially Alberta and BC). Infrastructure built along the CNC route will need to be designed to remain functional under different climatic conditions that predominate today. Chokepoints will dictate how buildings and transportation infrastructure should be planned.






Research Papers