NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 17, 2004

Newspapers in Canada like to expend ink on environmental degradation and related health impacts, says the Fraser Institute. Claims linking increasing rates of asthma and deaths to air pollution are carried uncritically as are laments regarding humanity's supposedly increasing "ecological footprint" and associated loss of biodiversity on Earth.

The media's coverage of environmental issues helps explain why many Canadians believe their environment is becoming worse. The facts show the environment is in good shape. For example:

  • Canada's air quality has improved dramatically, with ambient levels of sulphur dioxide (from coal and oil) decreasing 72 percent between 1974 and 2001.
  • Carbon monoxide levels have declined a respectable 82.6 percent in spite of a 30 percent increase in vehicle registrations between 1974 and 2001.
  • Airborne lead levels have declined 94 percent between 1974 and 1998; in fact, lead levels are now so low that they do not require further monitoring.

Canada's water quality has also improved. Pollutant measurements reveal that:

  • Ninety-percent of water bodies in British Columbia are rated in fair condition, and half are in good or excellent condition.
  • Toxic contaminants such as PCB and DDE have decreased in Canada's Great Lakes since the 1960s.

Moreover, the belief that Canada's forests are disappearing due to overharvesting is false. In fact, the volume of Canada's forests actually increased 4 percent between 1979 and 1994, although the country's the amount of wood harvested increased 65.3 percent between 1970 and 1999.


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