Thesis: Impact of Economics Development to Environmental in Canada

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¶ … Economics Development to Environment in Canada

There is no doubt that economic development is vital for both developed as well as developing nations for the general improvement in the standard of living and for their citizens to achieve their complete human potential. Economic development is a dire necessity for the financial well-being and economic stability of Canada. It is well-established that economic policies and decisions of the government and the people can have direct and adverse bearings on the environment. Therefore, it is a challenge for the government to find out ways and means to undertake economic development in a sustainable manner so that the well-being and health of Canadians can be improved without any harm to the environment. (Kwiatkowski; Ooi, 2003); ("Economics and Sustainability," 2009) the three northern territories of Canada, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut, have a low population density mainly comprised of Aboriginals. These areas have a historical problem of high unemployment accompanied by various problems concerning the health and well-being of the people. Economic development is an urgent requirement of these areas but it remains to be seen how the process is carried out without disturbing the unique interaction that the Aboriginals have with the environment. (Kwiatkowski; Ooi, 2003)

Economic development encompasses a wide range of activities which have a profound impact on our living standards and way of life. It also has a direct effect on our consumption of the natural capital and its depletion/pollution. The immense geographical size of Canada makes this all the more striking because of its immense volume of consumption and production. Despite the environmental and conservation policies, Canada remains one of the leading polluters of the world. Canada also has the notoriety of being one of the biggest global emitters of per capita sulphur dioxide. The aquatic populations on the east coast of Canada have virtually collapsed. Industrial and household emissions have drastically affected the air quality in the urban areas. (Copeland, 1998); (Park, 1986) for example, the province of Alberta is rich in fossil fuels and most of its wealth, approximately two-thirds or more of its merchandise exports, comes from exporting natural gas, coal, natural gas liquids, petrochemicals and crude oil. The expansion of this industry has also resulted in an increasing demand for electricity. In addition, bitumen extraction from the oil sands results in the consumption of large volumes of water. This has resulted in tremendous pressure on the fresh water resources. (Griffiths; Woynillowicz, 2009) in addition, oil sands development also releases huge volumes of toxic wastes like naphthenic acids which have an adverse impact on the ecosystem and is linked with undesirable effects on the traditional ways of life and subsistence activities as well as on people's health. The discharge of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide gases in the surrounding water bodies has resulted in an increase in the level of acidity in these waters. ("Fact Sheet: The waters that bind us," n. d.)

According to a government report, industrial activity in this region is expected to result in a climatic change in the near future. It is estimated that there will be a considerable temperature rise and may go up by 4oC by 2050. Precipitation is also expected to decline in this region by 6% in the summer months. Evapotranspiration is expected to increase in the prairie region which may lead to an increase in the arid area size and frequency of droughts. It has been observed that glaciers in the upper levels of the Saskatchewan, Athabasca and Bow rivers have gone down by 25% in the last hundred years. Winters are expected to be abnormally warm leading a reduction in the overall snow accumulation in the alpine regions. This, in turn, will eventually lead to a reduction in the summer river flows. Thus, there is expected to be a general decline in water supplies in the future. (Griffiths; Woynillowicz, 2009) the focus on increased economic development has resulted in an indiscriminate granting of water licenses to oil sands operators. It is shocking to learn that the volume of freshwater consumed for oil sands development per year can satisfy the annual water needs of three million people. ("Fact Sheet: The waters that bind us," n. d.) Economic developmental activities have resulted in an increase in global warming emissions in Canada. These emissions are a result of fossil fuel combustion. Carbon dioxide is a major constituent of these emissions and accounts for approximately 78% of the gases. These greenhouse gas emissions -- GHG arise from fossil-fuel power generation, fossil fuel industries, oil sands development, and fugitive emissions from oil and natural gas. Environment Canada has estimated that in case no action is taken to check these emissions total emissions in Canada will grow from 756 Mt as of 2006 to 937 Mt by 2020. (Griffiths; Woynillowicz, 2009)

There is excessive per capita energy consumption in Canada compared to other developed countries. Energy consumption has increased by 14% in the period between 1990 and 2001. The energy sources like electricity, natural gas, coal and petroleum products have an adverse impact on the environment. The important sectors which contribute to the Canadian economic development and account for energy consumption include the sectors of industrial - 38.5% of national energy consumption, agricultural -- 2.7%, construction -- 0.7% approx. And transportation -- 29%. The residential sector is also responsible for around 17% of total energy consumption. Buildings and transportation make up approximately 60% of the total energy demands of Canada. Therefore, consideration should be given to the infrastructural design which can be operationally energy efficient, utilize materials which have "low embodied energy" and helps in promoting lifestyles which have "low energy intensity." (Cuddihy; Kennedy; Byer, 2005)

The main environmental problems in Canada arise from the widespread natural resource exploitation. This is quite strange considering the country is sparsely populated and possesses amazingly large tracts of natural land. This extensive exploitation has resulted in a drop in the biodiversity and has caused substantial damage to the freshwater fish population. (Weidner; Janicke; Jorgens, 2002) There is an external economic factor which affects the environmental situation of Canada. This is the densely populated developing countries which are going through a rapid phase of economic growth. These countries require resources like minerals, forest resources and food which Canada can supply. However, this places a burden on the environmental resources of Canada. An increase in international trade is detrimental to the economy of countries like Canada that "exports the services of open access resources" without checking indiscriminate access to such resources. Canadian government should keep in mind that if it is unable to implement proper conservation measures, it should not give foreign countries any access to its natural resources. (Copeland, 1998)

Canada is one of the world leaders in the export of minerals and related products. A related environmental problem in Canada generated due to economic development in this industry is the problem of acid rain. For example, the ore-smelting process in a sparsely populated region of Ontario discharges approximately 2750 tons of sulphur dioxide per day. These emissions blend with other pollutants and precipitate into acid rain which not only affects the region but also drifts downstream as far away as the U.S. This industry which extracts nickel and copper from the massive ore deposits in that area has had a devastating impact on the ecosystem of that area. All the lakes in this area are highly acidic and dead since it is unable to support any kind of aquatic life. Even the ground adjoining this region is barren; such is the extent of pollution - a cost that had to be paid for making economic gains from exploiting earth's bountiful resources. Mining activities in Ontario have had other environmental impacts as well. Prospecting and staking activities disturb wildlife and bother the migrating wildlife. Early exploration removes vegetation and erodes the soil surface. The use of heavy machinery for the purpose of drilling adversely affects the surface and ground water. (Hokikian, 2002); (Carter-Whitney; Duncan, et. al, 2008)

Currently, no environmental assessment is done at any stage of the mining process. Mining activities are important for the Canadian economy as it improves the investment climate and increases economic opportunities. However, the main challenge is to make sure that lands which are environmentally sensitive are protected at all costs. Therefore, it is essential that detailed land use planning is done before any kind of mining activities are undertaken. (Carter-Whitney; Duncan, et. al, 2008) a significant economic as well as environmental resource for Canada is the Great Lakes. However, there has been deterioration in the aquatic ecosystem of these Lakes because of the considerable amounts of harmful, persistent and bio-accumulative chemicals which have been introduced into the ecosystem by way of atmospheric and fluvial depositions. Chief among these pollutants are the PBDEs or Polybrominated diphenyl ethers which are a type of brominated flame retardant. These chemicals have the capacity to drastically affect the environment. Out of the eight Great Lakes provinces, only four have implemented rules… [END OF PREVIEW]

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