Climate Change, GHG & Pollution
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Clean Air Day

Climate Change, GHG & Pollution

Air pollution is a term we use to describe any harmful gases or particles found in the air we breathe. The chemicals that contribute to air pollution include, but are not limited to:

  • nitrogen oxides (NOx)
  • sulphur dioxide (SO2)
  • volatile organic compounds (VOC's)
  • particulate matter (PM)
  • carbon monoxide (CO)

Pollutants can be emitted from natural sources such as volcanoes and forest fires. Human activity produces far more pollutants into the environment.  Canada's largest sources of air pollution are:

  1. power plants
  2. industries
  3. vehicle emissions

Although emission controls have improved in Canada over the last 20 years, our increasing demand for power and increased use of cars increases the use of fossil fuels - one of the "dirtiest" sources of energy.

is a term used to define a mixture of ground level ozone (formed in the atmosphere from chemical reactions between NOx and VOC's) and PM formed in the atmosphere. Human health can be greatly affected by PM and ground level ozone. Canada has implemented new standards for allowable levels of PM and ground level ozone that are an important step forward in protecting the health of people sensitive to air pollution.

How are Clean Air and Climate Change Linked?

We use fossil fuels like oil, natural gas, coal and gasoline to heat our homes and buildings, to power our factories, to generate electricity, and to fuel our vehicles. Burning fossil fuels produce emissions and airborne particles that are bad for your health and the environment. Known as greenhouse gases, the build-up of these pollutants in the atmosphere is one of the driving forces of climate change.


Air Pollution

Air pollution is a worldwide problem that takes a heavy toll on the state of our environment, health and quality of life. Air pollution does not only affect our cities and urban centres. It also can occur indoors at home, school, and our work. Air pollution can makes us sick and contributes to chronic respiratory illnesses such as asthma. Some air pollutants return to earth as acid rain and snow that can damage ecosystems such as lakes and forests, making them unlivable habitats for many plant and animal species. Acid rain can also have direct economic effects by damaging crops and corroding buildings and historic monuments. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) are another form of air pollution that can erode the Earth's protective ozone layer, which shields us from the Sun's more damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation.


Some Facts about Greenhouse Gases (GHG) and Climate Change

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that human activity is interfering with the planet's climate system, causing the Earth to become warmer. This international community of scientists has determined that increased concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere are the leading cause of global warming, which is enhancing the planet's natural "greenhouse effect".  In Canada, GHG emissions in 2000 were 15 percent higher than they were in 1990. Canada accounts for 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but we are the world's third largest per capita producer of GHG after the United States and Australia.


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