On Tuesday, the right-wing Fraser Institute released a report, authored by a well-known
climate change denier, arguing against reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the report authors, closing Ontario’s coal plants had a negligible
effect on emissions in our province. Given the source, this conclusion should come
as no surprise.
But if you have ever seen black smoke rising out of coal smoke stacks, you may be
inclined to be skeptical. And your suspicion would be justified.
The overwhelming consensus among health and climate experts is that putting an end
to coal was good for our health, and for our environment. Organizations as varied
as the Ontario Medical Association, the Asthma Society of Canada, the Environmental
Commissioner of Ontario, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, Ontario Lung
Association, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Ontario Public
Health Association, Ontario Clean Air Alliance, the David Suzuki Foundation, and
many more have endorsed this conclusion.
Here are the facts. From 2005 to 2015, greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity
sector have fallen by 80 per cent. Emissions of harmful particulate matter – nitrogen
oxides and sulphur oxides – have fallen by 86 per cent and 94 per cent respectively.
And the results on our everyday lives are just as striking. In 2005, Ontario had
53 smog days. These are days where we had to warn our citizens to be careful about
just going outside to breathe. In 2015, the number of smog days was zero. From an
average of one smog day a week, to zero. Studies today show that premature deaths
and hospitalizations from poor air quality have dropped dramatically, reflecting
the impact of our cleaner air.
These are not abstract statistics. They are about our families and friends. Last
fall I had the opportunity to meet a young boy named Matthew, who lives with severe
asthma. Three years ago, Matthew couldn’t go outside to play, because the air quality
posed too serious a risk. Since the elimination of the coal plants, these fears
have become a thing of the past.
Our province should be proud of what we’ve done for Matthew, and hundreds of thousands
more like him. It’s our collective effort, and our collective commitment to action,
which has made this dramatic change in quality of life available to us all.
Letter to the Editor
Glenn Thibeault, Ontario Minister of Energy