Ratifying Kyoto would save
lives, doctors say
Gerry Scott of the David
Suzuki foundation stands with David Suzuki in Ottawa on
Wednesday as they take part in a news conference
announcing their support for the ratification of the
Smog costs Ontario
$1b yearly in hospital costs, absenteeism - study
By Dennis Bueckert / The Canadian Press
Ottawa - A coalition of doctors and medical groups is
calling for quick ratification of the Kyoto protocol, saying
it will bring cleaner air, cut hospital costs and save lives.
Although the climate treaty is aimed at cutting greenhouse
gas emissions, it will also reduce other major pollutants that
cause lung-damaging smog, doctors told a news conference
"Ratifying the Kyoto protocol is a powerful step to start
reducing fossil fuel use, which means improved air quality and
public health," said Ron de Burger of the Canadian Public
"It can also mean huge economic savings."
The Ontario Medical Association has estimated smog costs $1
billion annually in hospital admissions, emergency room visits
and absenteeism in Ontario alone.
The federal government has estimated that up to 16,000
premature deaths per year in Canada can be attributed to air
More than 2,000 doctors have signed a statement circulated
by the David Suzuki Foundation, urging "prompt and effective
ratification and implementation of the Kyoto protocol in
Suzuki said health benefits have been overlooked in the
ongoing debate about Kyoto.
"You're talking human lives as well," he said. "I think
what the doctors are saying is this hasn't even been included
in the equation."
This summer brought a record number of smog advisories in
Toronto, and the trend will worsen with global warming, said
Alan Abelsohn of the Ontario College of Family Physicians.
"My patients suffered more from heat and air pollution than
ever before, and expressed outrage at the worsening
Smog is worse on hot days because heat accelerates chemical
reactions among pollutants.
Estimates of Kyoto's impact to date have focused almost
entirely on economic costs and job losses, and there has been
spectacular variation in the predictions.
A discussion paper released in May said no existing jobs
would be lost but economic growth would be reduced by 1.7
percentage points from 2000 to 2012.
News reports Wednesday cited government figures as showing
the treaty would cost about 200,000 jobs and up to 1.5 per
cent in lost economic growth by 2010.
A study prepared by the Tellus Institute, a U.S. consulting
group, predicted a gain of 52,000 jobs by 2012 due to
investment in energy-efficient technologies.
"There's all sorts of figures being thrown out on that,"
Chretien said Wednesday in Windsor where he met Ontario
Premier Ernie Eves. The prime minister gave no hint of being
swayed by the campaign against ratification.
"We have some obligations, international and Canadian
obligations, (and) we owe it to our grandchildren to fight the
problem of climate change," he said.
"We have to work with the provinces, we have to work with
the different sectors to make sure this operation will be done
in such a way that the economy will not suffer."
Eves was relatively supportive of Chretien on the issue,
despite speculation that Ontario will join Alberta in its
fierce anti-Kyoto campaign.
"Everybody's in favour of reducing greenhouse gas
emissions," said Eves. "I don't think that's the issue."
"I'm not planning on losing any jobs in the province of
Ontario as a result of any reduction of greenhouse gas
"In fact, I could make the argument that through new
technologies, you could improve the economy by developing
those new technologies. But I do think we have to have a plan,
and that's really all myself and other premiers have been
In Halifax, Environment Minister David Anderson
emphatically denied reports that cost figures were deleted
from briefing materials provided to cabinet Tuesday.
"There were no documents lost, no documents suppressed," he
said. "We have had literally hundreds of studies done over the
last five years or 10 years since Rio."
"As we know, the province of Alberta is saying that 450,000
jobs would be lost. They're advertising to this effect, but
they forget that this analysis was based on the fact that
Canada would be the only country in the world to ratify