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Blame Canada

Here's something interesting. Our neighbor to the north has about 30 million people -- a tiny fraction of the North American total -- but is apparently the source of 42 percent of the continent's air pollution.

UPDATE: Hm . . . the lede of the article refers to "air pollution" but the study seems to have been only of air pollution due to lead. Of course, any reference to aggregates depends on how you count. American pollution controls don't control carbon dioxide emissions, so they don't count as a component of our official air quality measures, but a lot of people think we should control carbon emissions, etc. If I recall correctly, Canada wanted to wriggle out of Kyoto commitments by claiming that countries with lots and lots of trees should have lesser obligations on the emissions cut front, right?

May 24, 2005 | Permalink


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Interesting, if true.

Posted by: epistemology | May 24, 2005 4:30:18 PM

It looks to me like the article is just talking about lead polution with the 42%, which I'd beliece because Canada has a lot of electric plants (a lot of New England and NY power comes from Canada). CO2, I'd have a hard time believing Canada is anywhere near that percentage- I'd expect Mexico to beat them, and both be way behind the US.

Posted by: SP | May 24, 2005 4:31:38 PM

I see lead pollution, not air pollution.

Posted by: praktike | May 24, 2005 4:32:17 PM

Far be it from me to defend Canada, but this is just bad scaremongering newspaper erporting. I think the relevant passage from the actual report (at least exec summary) is: "In 2002, total releases of lead and its compounds were 43 million kilograms with air releases 2 percent of the total releases (Table 10–1). While Canadian facilities reported 9 percent of total releases of lead and its compounds, they reported 42 percent of air releases."



Posted by: Al | May 24, 2005 4:37:23 PM

CO2 emissions, 2002 (from the DOE):
US- 5,796 million metric tons
Canada- 592 million metric tons
Mexico- 362.5 million metric tons (I guessed wrong above)

Posted by: SP | May 24, 2005 4:38:11 PM

No, that was only countries that grow trees on their roofs (rooves?).

Posted by: flip | May 24, 2005 4:44:49 PM

uh, is there a back carrot symbol, forward slash, letter "i", and a forward carrot symbol missing?

Posted by: David | May 24, 2005 4:46:39 PM

Matt, "air pollution" also includes NOx, SOx, several types of particulates, and Hg.

Posted by: praktike | May 24, 2005 4:49:52 PM

Why can't typepad close open tags automatically between comments and eliminate the greatest single source of blogospheric italics pollution?

Posted by: PaulC | May 24, 2005 4:54:22 PM

Besides the lack of a closing HTML tag, I don't think Matthew quite has the update right. The study, a link to which I posted above, is about lots of different kinds of pollutants, one of which is lead (others of which are NOx, SOx, VOCs, etc.). The newspaper cherrypicks the airborne lead pollution out of the study and conflates it with the generic "air pollution".

Posted by: Al | May 24, 2005 5:02:37 PM

I wonder what a non closed anchor tag will do

Posted by: mk | May 24, 2005 5:03:17 PM

it says LEAD air pollution. not just air pollution

Posted by: fasteddie | May 24, 2005 5:10:35 PM

it says LEAD air pollution. not just air pollution

Sneaky bastards. They updated the story.

Posted by: Al | May 24, 2005 5:22:53 PM

Actually, there is a serious greenhouse gas emission problem in Canada - likely to grow more severe all the time.

From the SF Chronicle:

Just north of the oil boomtown of Fort McMurray, the forest suddenly falls away into a series of enormous strip mines as deep as 250 feet and covering many square miles each. Viewed from the rim, 60-foot-tall shovel loaders look like toys as they claw ton after ton of tar- like sands from the ground.

Nearby, refineries burn natural gas to steam-cook the sands, separate the tarry residue and purify it into oil.

These oil sands are the world's most expensive, most polluting source of oil under large-scale production. Wringing four barrels of crude oil from the sands requires burning the equivalent of a fifth barrel. The mines and refineries release huge amounts of greenhouse gases -- the equivalent each day to more than a third of California's daily car emissions.

Posted by: Thor's Hammer | May 24, 2005 6:05:23 PM

Hm . . . the lede of the article refers to "air pollution" but the study seems to have been only of air pollution due to lead.

A perfect example of why "lede" is spelled that way.

Posted by: Bob Munck | May 24, 2005 6:06:34 PM

You never know what gems you'll find on the net. It was worth reading this thread, for instance, just for the phrase "back carrot symbol"

Posted by: Finny | May 24, 2005 6:15:10 PM

Canada IS abiding to the terms of the Kyoto Protocol - unlike the US. This is just selective statistics, used for the purpose of blaming someone else for one's own problems. Typical immaturity, really.

Posted by: RIPope | May 24, 2005 6:26:38 PM

Surrender pronto or we'll level Toronto.

Posted by: Ugh | May 24, 2005 6:28:55 PM

Lots of cross-border action in the great stink-bowl of Great Lakes air pollution: Canada hammers us with smelter smoke, and we hammer them with acid deposition. Even if amusing at times, the blame game seems pointless.

Posted by: Marc Valdez | May 24, 2005 8:39:50 PM

I'm surprised that the NYT (and the TheoReich bloggers) are not blaming Canada for polluting the air with oxygen from all those trees. And the trees capturing valuable carbon from the air in the form of CO2.

Didn't Reagan make some argument about trees causing pollution?

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | May 24, 2005 8:45:51 PM

According to this site,


Canada is the second worst offender for greenhouse gas emissions per capita, after... Australia!

The USA would be fourth, after Luxembourg.

As far as "having lots and lots of trees", it doesn't seem to help us Canucks much (again, according to the site). They (the Australia Institute) postulate that the US gets more carbon sinks per capita than Canada (!!!)

If you look at Figure 2, the Russian Federation gets the most carbon sinks. So northern forests shouldn't be the difference (i.e. them being lousier carbon sinks than southern forests).

Posted by: JonS | May 24, 2005 9:04:11 PM

Are all of you too young to remember when "Acid Rain" was a regular and hot bilateral topic between the U.S. and Canada (way back in the 1970s). Then, the issue just faded (or blew) away, like the toxic clouds that produced it. I'm 45, so I just barely remember it... ;-)


Posted by: DK | May 24, 2005 9:38:47 PM

"A perfect example of why "lede" is spelled that way."

Silly me; I'd always assumed that it was just journalists being pretentious.

"Didn't Reagan make some argument about trees causing pollution?"

Indeed he did, and he was in fact perfectly correct. Volatile hydrocarbon emissions from trees are a dominant source of smog in any number of areas, and a major contributor in many others. The Smokey mountains, for instance? That isn't smoke, it's smog, from all the pine trees. A similar effect is present in the Los Angeles basin, which would tend to be smoggy even if the automobile had never been invented. (Not that artifical emissions don't make the situation worse, of course.)

Just because an idea is easy to mock, doesn't necessarilly mean it's wrong.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | May 24, 2005 9:55:25 PM

Shit flows downhill.

Posted by: snowballs | May 24, 2005 10:05:55 PM

Clifford Krauss writes in Today's NYT

While Canada signed and ratified the Kyoto accord, making a commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions 6 percent below 1990 levels from 2008 to 2012, emissions have risen to 24 percent above 1990 levels. The powerful domestic oil industry has lobbied effectively to guarantee that the development of oil sands - a noxious source of carbon dioxide - will go on expanding.

In fact, Canada, where logging, mining and oil interests are extremely powerful, has a less than sterling environmental record. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Canada produces more nuclear waste per capita than any other member country and ranks as the fourth per capita emitter of carbon dioxide, following the United States, Australia and Luxembourg. Environmental activists say that only Finland and Sweden log more forest land per capita among industrialized countries.

Posted by: Irkam | May 25, 2005 12:11:32 AM

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