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Concerned about coal

Many fail to realize that coal produces 40 per cent of the world's electricity and creates one third of total global carbon dioxide emissions.

Many fail to realize that coal produces 40 per cent of the world’s electricity and creates one third of total global carbon dioxide emissions. Yukoners do not use coal and effects are hardly, or not yet noticed, yet we should still be concerned.

Power plants are extremely inefficient (40 per cent electrical conversion rate) and coal produces 1.8 times more carbon dioxide than natural gas per unit energy. And that is just the start.

The high sulphur content is the main contributor in acid rain. Power plants release high amounts of toxic heavy metals.

The average coal plant releases 170 pounds of mercury and is more radioactive to the surrounding area then a nuclear power plant. Coal releases large amounts of solid particulate matter - 392 times more than gas - which leads to respiratory problems.

Researchers have found that in areas of high particulate matter, infants suffer a 26 per cent increased risk of “sudden infant death syndrome” and a 40 per cent greater risk of respiratory death. Mining procedures are more dangerous and harmful than almost any other mineral.

Canada has the best natural landscape, an abundance of available resources and a strong economy. This gives us the necessary tools to reduce coal consumption, perhaps even eliminate it.

We have large reserves of uranium for nuclear power, and second in global natural gas production. Our vast landscape gives us options to increase renewable energy production as well.

Currently Canada produces 16.6 per cent of its electricity using coal. It’s not a lot, but this gives us the opportunity to eliminate it.

Conventionally, Canada maintained a good environmental track record, but as of late, especially under the current Conservative government, our reputation is dropping. We could be one of the few countries not to rely on coal, and this would vastly improve our land and Canada’s effect on climate change.

There are many reasons Ontario switched from coal to nuclear power. Coal creates acid rain, harms provincial and national parks, acidifies lakes, affects people’s health and adds to climate change.

This switch turned out to be very effective and economical. Ontario now produces less than three per cent of power from coal. The success of Ontario’s switchover offers good reason to eliminate coal power plants in the Prairie provinces and throughout Canada.

I am only in Grade 11, but I see the problems Canada and the world could face in the coming years. With coal producing only 16.6 per cent of our power, it would be easy to reduce or eliminate our coal consumption.

I hope that our government takes coal into consideration and implements regulations to preserve our pristine landscape, benefit the health of Canadians and reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. People should remember coal as a major contributor to climate change and harmful to Canada and the entire world.

Elliott Berg


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