The Price Tag of Pollution

by jlomb on October 5, 2017 - 4:55pm

The Canadian based news company ‘Toronto Star’ released an article on the challenges the Canadian economy faces due to pollution. In 2015, the IISD predicted that the cumulative cost of pollution, in many indirect and direct manners, could be well over fifty billion dollars. In the report they defined pollution as “anything released into the environment by human activity including car exhaust, sewage, crude oil spill off, greenhouse gas emissions, fertilizers, waste heat, noise, light and chemicals like pesticides, plastic additives, and flame retardants” (Ballingall, 2017). Some of the social economic costs include increased health care, treating dirty water, honeybee deaths, reduced agricultural output, decline in property value, and contamination clean up. The Canadian state must conduct more research to educate the public and key environmental stakeholders about how pollution effects our economy.

This situation can be defined as a wicked problem that is very resistant to resolution. The accumulation of pollution over multiple disciplines of industry and human activities makes it complex with social interconnectivity. The uncertainty surrounding this problem is the reason more research needs to be conducted. The extent of this pollution system is still unknown which leads to weak or inefficient preventative responses. Even though no preventative actions were emphasised in the article, it is evident that decisions still need to be made given inadequate data. This leads the Canadian government and stakeholders to hyperbolic discounting because the longer they wait to act, the more the problem will weigh on the Canadian economy. Currently, the government is reviewing Canada’s Environmental Protection Act and constructing design management processes.

I believe applying substantive policy instruments to try and change the behavior of Canadian polluters is a viable option. This can be done by setting restrictions to prohibit or control polluting actions. For example, it can be used to restrict fertilizer use within a specific distance of a freshwater source to stop algae blooms. They could also implement a charge or incentive program to keep the emission of organic pollutants and heavy metals from entering the environment. This way they encourage producers to limit waste and modify business habits that are environmentally friendly. A portion of the money saved by the government from pollution reduction could then be given as a financial reward to those who followed policy. Lastly, the most effective combative tool is public outreach and education. If the whole population of Canada understood the extent of their actions, there would be a great reduction in the economic pollution cost. The more pollution systems and pathway discoveries that the government finds, the more can then be forwarded to the people of Canada.



            Ballingall, A. (2017, June 01). New report says pollution costs Canadian economy 'tens of billions' each year. Retrieved from