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Environmental Indicators

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Primary Indicators

  1. Canada also has standards for hydrogen fluoride and is proposing standards for hydrogen sulphide.
  2. Air monitoring stations operate in most Canadian cities with populations over 50,000; they are located in residential, industrial and commercial areas.
  3. Standards are more stringent for longer time periods. For example, the 1-hour desirable level for sulphur dioxide is 172 ppb, whereas the annual desirable level is 11 ppb.
  4. The stations exceeding the 1-hour acceptable level in 1997 were located in Rouyn QC, Shawinigan QC, Sorel QC, Windsor ON, Sudbury ON and Yellowknife, NT. Readings that exceeded standards were less then 0.1 percent of the total readings for each of the stations.
  5. The three stations with no readings exceeding the I-hour desirable level in 1997 were located in Saint John NB, Regina SK and Saskatoon, SK.
  6. Stations with more than 8 percent of their total readings above the 1-hour desirable level are located in Long Point ON, Simcoe ON, Grand Bend ON, Algoma ON, Merlin ON, Stouffville ON and Vegreville AB.
  7. The stations with readings above the 1-hour desirable level in 1997 were located in Edmonton AB and Montreal QC. For both stations, less than 0.08 percent of their readings were above the standard.
  8. The stations with readings above the 24-hour maximum acceptable level were located in Sorel QC and Yellowknife NW, with 5.6 and 1.8 percent of their readings exceeding the standard respectively.
  9. Point versus non-point sources of water pollution could be compared to stationary versus mobile sources of air pollution.
  10. Eutrophication, or nutrient enrichment, is the oversupply of inorganic nutrients that cause algae and plants to multiply rapidly; when they die and decompose, the water's dissolved oxygen content is depleted. Dissolved oxygen, which is derived from photosynthesis by aquatic plants and atmospheric exchange, is essential to ensure the maintenance of aquatic life and self-purification processes in natural water systems.
  11. Bioaccumulation in aquatic organisms occurs when a persistent, fat-soluble, contaminant enters the organism's body through the skin or by ingestion. If consumption exceeds the organism's ability to metabolize or eliminate the contaminant, over time it accumulates in the tissues.
  12. Contaminant levels in herring-gull eggs are a good water quality indicator since these pollutants are bio-accumulative; as fish-eaters, herring gulls will have the highest concentration of these pollutants in their systems.
  13. DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane) is a persis-tent, bioaccumulative, synthetic insecticide. Its use was heavily restricted in the 1970s and prohibited after 1990. The breakdown product, DDE (dichloro- diphenyl-dichloro-ethylene), is most easily measured in the fat of animals or in the eggs of birds. Most other pesticides in use today are not as persistent and hence are not transported to the same degree as DDT.
  14. Data are unavailable before 1977.
  15. PCBs were once used extensively in many parts of the electrical and transmission industry, in flame retardants, water-proofing agents, printing inks, adhesives; they were also spread on roads to prevent airborne dust. In the 1980s, tight restrictions allowed PCBs to be used only in closed electrical equipment and safe incineration technologies now are used to destroy those currently in storage. They have been associated with declining fish populations in some locations.
  16. HCBs are used in fungicides, dye manufacturing, and wood preservatives; they are also produced as a waste by-product of chemical manufacturing. The Great Lakes region is at risk from HCB contamination since numerous chlorine plants are located near the Lakes on both sides of the border.
  17. These declines have not been without cost. In 1982, for example, more than 450,000 kg of PCB contaminated sediments were dredged from the Weukegan harbour at a cost of 24 million dollars (Environment Canada & USEPA 1997a).
  18. While summarizing research into the toxic effects of pollution in the Great Lakes in 1997, the United States Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry concluded that both wildlife and human populations are being affected by exposure to toxic substances (IJC 1997). The background paper on toxic contaminants from the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conferences (SOLEC) reports that water-quality objectives for the protection of human health are exceeded at current levels. It also recommends further reductions in pollutant concentrations (Environment Canada & USEPA 1995b: 1).
  19. Target loads for phosphorous are defined in the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreements (in metric tonnes per year) as: Lake Superior 3400, Lake Michigan 5600, Lake Huron 4300, Lake Erie 11000, and Lake Ontario 7000.
  20. Phosphorous concentrations are measured in the spring since they largely influence the amount of summer phytoplankton biomass (Environment Canada & USEPA 1995a: 4)
  21. For this report, the near-shore ecosystem includes land that is directly affected by the lakes and areas with warm shallow water. This area encompasses 25 percent of each of lakes Michigan, Huron and Ontario, 90 percent of Lake Erie, 5 percent of Lake Superior, all connecting channels, and land 16 km from the shoreline of all lakes except Lake Superior.
  22. Lake Erie, for example, was previously considered dead but now supports a commercial fishery. In Lake Superior, Lake Trout are now self-sustaining (Environment Canada & USEPA: 1997a).
  23. Do you re-call the famous Mobro garbage-barge episode in the mid-1980s, in which the wandering barge appeared night after night on the news, became the icon of the trash debate in the United States. What happened to the Mobro garbage barge? After wandering up and down the Atlantic seaboard for several weeks, the trash it carried was placed in a landfill in New York, just a few miles from where it had started its journey.
  24. In Canada, municipal waste is all waste that is not construction and demolition debris. See OECD 1999: 165.
  25. Data are based on apparent consumption (a proxy for waste generated) using figures from domestic consumption of the respective product + imports - exports (OECD 1999: 172).
  26. This figure for glass recycling includes packaging glass only (OECD 1999:174).
  27. Estimates for urban space range from 0.2 percent to 1 percent depending on the definition.
  28. Cropland is the amount of land used to grow field crops, fruit, vegetables, nursery products, and sod.
  29. Soil quality has been defined by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada as the "soil's fitness to support crop growth without becoming degraded or otherwise harming the environment" (Acton & Gregorich 1995: xi).
  30. These practices were initially promoted by the National Soil Conservation Program (NSCP) in 1989. From this program came other programs addressing erosion such as the Permanent Cover Program in the Prairies, the Soil and Water Environmental Enhancement Program in Ontario, and the programs of the Eastern Canada Soil and Water Conservation Centre in Atlantic Canada (Acton & Gregorich 1995: 75).
  31. Data on the risk of erosion is used instead of the actual amount of soil erosion since erosion levels vary between years largely due to natural conditions. There is also more data available on the risk of erosion.
  32. Roundwood refers to round sections of tree stems such as logs or bolts.
  33. For this inventory, old-growth was defined as the following: for coastal British Columbia, 251+ years for all forest types; for interior British Columbia, 141+ years for most forest types, and 121+ years for stands dominated by lodgepole pine or deciduous species. This inventory examined 94 percent of British Columbia's land base. The remaining land is largely privately owned.
  34. The amount of old-growth forest that is protected ranges by biogeoclimatic zones. For example, 16 percent of old growth in the Coastal Western Hemlock and Engelmann Spruce-Subalpine Fir zones is protected. In the Ponderosa Pine and Sub-boreal Spruce biogeoclimatic zones only 5 percent is protected.
  35. In future reports, Environmental Indicators will try to examine data for old-growth forests in other provinces.
  36. Primary energy is the total energy available for all uses. It includes energy used by final consumers as well as energy needed to make other forms of energy.
  37. Total domestic energy is defined here as the sum of total residential, commercial, industrial, transportation, and non-energy uses as well as the energy needed to produce electricity and producer consumption and loses. This calculation is a good approximation of total primary energy.
  38. Non-energy uses includes petrochemical feedstock, asphalt, lubricants, etc.
  39. Gross additions exceeded net production in 1989 and 1995.
  40. These estimates vary depending on assumption for price and advancements on technology.
  41. The oil and natural-gas industry is divided into the "upstream" sector--production--and the "downstream" sector--refining and marketing. The upstream sector includes exploration and production companies as well as seismic and drilling contractors, and technical, service, and supply companies. The downstream sector includes pipeline systems, refineries, gas-distribution utilities, wholesalers of oil products, service stations, and petrochemical companies.

Secondary Indicators

  1. The atmosphere contains 750 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide; living plants contain 560 billion tonnes, soils 1,400 billion tonnes, ocean sediments 11,000 billion tonnes and the oceans themselves 38,000 billion tonnes. See Environment Canada 1991c: (22) 7.
  2. Scientists do not dispute that the increase in equivalent CO2 has occurred. Since the Industrial Revolution, equivalent CO2 levels have risen from approximately 290 ppm to nearly 440 ppm in 1994 (Bailey 1995: 87). Humans do not, however, contribute to the main absorbers of infrared light in the atmosphere. Water vapour and clouds are responsible for over 98 percent of the current greenhouse effect (Lindzen 1992: 2).
  3. As recorded by the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd. (Environment Canada 1999d).


  1. For a comprehensive discussion of the wide variety of beliefs about nature in this century alone, see Bramwell 1989.
  2. This two-stage averaging process is necessary to avoid giving exaggerated weight to categories that include a larger number of sub-categories.

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