Should the need to conserve the environment be prioritized over that of economic growth? This is a question that has remain to be debatable with the economists accusing the environmental activists of allegedly overemphasizing the need to conserve the environment. There are a variety of environmental issues that affects the world today. World Bank Group (2011) notes that with globalization, the related natural processes must not be looked at as local problems but as international issues. Today there are virtually no society which is exempted from the effects of such issues as global warming, air pollution, acid rain, water pollution, and ozone depletion. This write up will give a detailed coverage of the recent environmental issues, concepts the theories while at the same time seeking to relate them to the situation in Canada.
Canada was chosen for these study based on the findings of the recent studies that the country has been consistently lagging behind in the bid to ensure sustainable development. However, the country is increasingly taking up the challenge to support environmental conservation programs. The Environment Canada (2005) notes that the country has increased its spending on providing environmentally related education to its citizen. Canada has since identified air, climate change, habitat and wildlife, pollution and waste, water, and weather as its key environmental resources whose focus will help the country to improve in its bid to promote sustainable development.
An Overview of the Environmental Situation in Canada
A study that compared Canada with other industrialized nations in the OECD showed that Canada has one of the poorest records on environmental performance. The country performed dismally lagging behind at position 28 out of the 29 countries that were studied (OECD, 2001). The economy of the country was found to be in efficient because both the country’s energy consumption and the amount of the resulting pollution greatly increased. Equally, it continued to perform dismally on most of the used indicators of the level of environmental sustainability (OECD, 2011).
Socha (2007) noted that unlike the pre-industrial era, today the earth is not able to absorb and purify the increasing amount of pollutants that are released into it. According to him, many of the environmental challenges that the world face today resulted with the innovation and use of the motorized vehicles and the rapid increase in the world’s population. According to Socha (2007), the need to clean the air is so urgent that it can not be ignored. He notes that the major air pollutants in urban areas across the world are transportation and fuel combustion in stationary sources. Motor vehicles are responsible for both the production of carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC), and nitrogen Oxide. Fuel combustion on the other hand is major producer of sulfur dioxide (SO2).
OECD (2001) noted that Canada has made a progress in reducing air pollution. The findings of the study showed that the rate of the emission of sulfur dioxide went down by 15.3% for the duration between 1980 and 2000. The study showed that during the same period the emission of nitrogen oxides which is responsible for acid rain and smog decreased by 1.6 percent (OECD, 2001). However, when these improvements were compared with that experienced by other industrialized nations it was revealed that despite making progress, Canada is still among the top developed nations whose actions are attributed to increased environmental pollution.
The Climate Change in climate
According to the Department of Ecology State of Washington (2011), climate change can be understood as a significant and a long time change in weather usually over along period of time. The department observed that the weather has been changing all the times because of the actions of mankind. It identified carbon dioxide as the major cause of climate change. Carbon dioxide is majorly produced from the burning of the fossil fuels including; coals, oils and gas. According to the Department of Ecology State of Washington, (2011) report, the burning of gas has been responsible for the witnessed 30 percent increase in the amount of CO2 produced. This has resulted into the rise of the average global temperature by between 1o to 2oF over the past 30 years. Other gases which also contribute to global warming include the human methane and nitrous oxide.
In the case of Canada, the OECD (2001) found out that the country’s green house gas emission exceeds that of the average of all the developed OECD countries by 48 percent. Even worse is that, Canadian emissions are up by approximately 13.5% since 1990. This is in itself a violation of the agreements of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that was signed in 1992 and the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 all of which it is a member (OECD, 2001).
The World Bank Group (2011) has noted that with the increasing world population there will always be increasing pressure on water resources. There is campaign on the need to prevent all the forms of water pollution especial the damping of untreated waste into the water systems. The World Bank Group noted that polluting water resources may compromise the quality of water which in turn will have harmful effect on both the aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity. It identified the major sources of water pollution as; urban and industrial wastes, increased use of pesticides and fertilizers, poor solid waste management and disposal. Others included deforestation, dissertation and soil erosion (World Bank Group, 2011).
In the case of Canada, the OECD (2011) found a 25.7 increase in the amount of water used by the country from the year 1980. This has caused grater ecologic stress on aquatic ecosystem. It also led to the increase of the maintenance cost of the water infrastructure. It was also found out that a good number of Canadian municipal including Victoria and Halifax, still damp their sewage in untreated form into water bodies. However, Canada has improved in handling its municipal sewage treatment (OECD, 2001).
Pimentel et al (2011) notes that today, the world’s attention has been drawn on the need to replace the initially used non renewable energy with solar power, wind power, biomass and fusion. These sources of energy are renewable and have very minimal effect on the environment. There is a global campaign and nations are signing various commitments to reduce the use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas which are responsible for global warming.
In terms of the energy use, Canada has not been very efficient. EOCD (2011) noted that though the country had witnessed an increase of 21 percent in its energy efficiency, the gain has been outweighed by the country’s increasing population and economic growth. The total energy consumption of the country continued to climb by 20.3% for the two decades between the 1980 and 2000 (EOCD, 2011).
The World Bank Group (2011) noted that apart from releasing gases and particles into the atmosphere, humans have also been responsible for the production of waste damped in the environment. The major types of wastes include: organic wastes, recyclable waste, non-recyclable waste, toxic waste, nuclear waste and space waste. Measures such as recycling and incinerations of waste have been proposed and employed by various nations to help deal with the problem of wastes. The Group noted that wastes related problems have increasingly become complex because of the industrial development and growth in population of various countries (World Bank Group, 2011).
Research has shown that Canadians has put attempts in place which has made it possible for the country to recycle 33 percent of its papers and cardboard and 17 percent of its glass. This has enabled the country to realize a 3.9 percent decrease in garbage per person during the two decades duration. However, the country must seek to reduce its nuclear waste energy that has since remained the highest compared to the other developed nations (OECD 2001).
Ozone Depleting Substances
Socha (2007) explained that CO2 partially restricts infrared radiation from going back into the space. This produces the green house effect that prevents the possibility of the rapid fall in earth’s temperature throughout the night. Ozone layer protects the earth from the effect of the harmful ultraviolet light, a substance that can cause skin cancer and damages to plants and animals.
Socha (2007) noted that a part from Carbon dioxide, the nitric oxide and nitrogen oxide also reduces the stratospheric ozone layer making them important in the greenhouse effect. Other pollutant gases that affect the environment are the Sulfur and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) produced due to combustion of fuels. These gases help in the depletion of the ozone in the atmosphere by reacting with its chlorine component contributing to global warming (Socha, 2007).
The study by OECD found out that Canada has progressed in the way it handles the ozone depleting substances. The country managed to completely eliminate the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC). However, because its continued use of large amounts of HCFCs as a substitute for CFCs, its per capita consumptions of the ozone depleting substances still remains high (OECD, 2001).
The major agricultural substances that are related to environmental conservation are the use of commercial fertilizers and the pesticides. It may also include issues of erosion and deforestation because of the cutting down of trees for more farming land. The study by OECD revealed that Canada has poor record of how it deals with the agricultural related environmental issues. The country’s use of pesticides and the commercial fertilizers is still so high greatly affecting its water resources (OECD, 2001).
Shah (2011) defines biodiversity as the variety of life forms on earth. The ecosystem must be viewed as a network of interconnected systems in which each member of every system has an important role to play. For example, deforestation will have n effect on the amount of rainfall received at a given place. However, certain human activities have resulted into massive extinctions of various species.
Even though Canada seems to have made steps towards improving its overall number of species at risk, the study showed that the country was still loosing large amounts of its wild fish. There was also an increase in the number of the country’s endangered species. Some of the indications were the increase by 14.6% of the volume of the forests extracted between the year 1980 and 1997. However, EOCD (2001) showed that the country had managed to increase the percentage of the size of the protected land (OECD 2001).
Canada is rated high in the motor vehicle per capita and road distances traveled. Studies have revealed that its numerous motor vehicles and the long distances travelled over its roads have increased by more than 100% since 1970. This means that the country burns more fossil fuels leading to increased air pollution. Lastly, the country is experiencing a high population growth which puts pressure on its resources (OECD, 2001).
In conclusion, there is need for more research and comprehensive assessment of the various laws of the environment and the relevant in determining the possible causes of the recent experienced global warming. The study gave a clear indication that the level of concern for environment in Canada is still very low. The country is still lagging behind in its attempts to conserve the environment. Its overall ranking was 28 out of the 29 countries that were ranked.