Last week, 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.
Minister of Energy