The Health Impacts of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
By: Fiona Waltraut Wirz-Endrys
I remember hearing on the news, that 2013 was the first smog-less summer in Ontario. A big part of this change is Ontario’s successful campaign to phase out coal-powered electricity generation plants between 2010-2014. This effort has reduced an incredible amount of CO2 from being emitted into the air. This means when you power on our air conditioning, lights, or electrically heated swimming pool for every one-kilowatt hour you use today, it produces almost 3 times less CO2 than it would have back in 2010.
With the reduction of CO2 emissions from our community, we can breathe in a little deeper and worry a little less about out next health check-up. With smog being known to cause negative health impacts, such as difficulty breathing, asthma, and lung damage, past smoggy days have overfilled local clinics and hospitals with patients. The most susceptible are children and seniors. Now, with our new smog-free city, we do not have to be so vigilant about checking the news for smog warnings and breathe a little easier.
Moving Forward as a Coal-Free Community
While we are moving forward at a great pace and have almost reached the Region’s goal of 6% CO2 reductions, we must now look ahead to see what the next step can be in reducing emissions. Transporation is our next major health and emissions challenge. Transportation now makes up almost 50% of our community's carbon footprint, and as our population continues to grow we've seen more and more vehicles add to our roadways. Efforts to move people out of gasoline or diesel powered vehicles has significant potential to improve the air quality in our community. The ION light rail transit project has the potential to decrease hospital admissions, saving our local health car system an estimated $10.5 million during the first 25 years of operation.
With these ideas in mind, I believe that we will reach the goal of 6% CO2 reductions by 2020, and can go even further to make lasing impacts on our community. With the large step taken by eliminating coal-fired energy production, we should be inspired, but not stop to keep further change coming.