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Climate Impacts

Few energy projects pose a larger threat to the climate than Canada's tar sands. Oil sands production emits three to four times more climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions than producing conventional crude oil, making it one of the world's dirtiest forms of fuel. 

Due to more energy intensive extraction processes coming online, it's only going to get worse: climate pollution per barrel has increased 21 per cent since 2010. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the oil industry's expansion plans will commit us to as much as six degrees Celsius of global warming, all but guaranteeing the destabilization of the global climate.

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Tar sands is 3-4 times worse for the climate than conventional oil
Key Issues:
- Industry expansion plans will lead to far greater than 2 degrees of global warming
- Canada's climate performance is the worst in the Western world
Current Status:
There are no meaningful emissions limits on the tar sands industry today

The tar sands are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, which emits more greenhouse gas emissions per capita than either the United States or China. The tar sands are the only reason Canada cannot meet its greenhouse gas-reduction commitments, and why it was the only country to pull out of the Kyoto climate change agreement.

Tar sands emissions have doubled in the past decade, and the industry’s expansion plans will double emissions again this decade, from 48 million tonnes in 2010 to 104 million tonnes in 2020. That’s twice current emissions from Norway, and exceeds the combined emissions from 85 nations.

If you thought that was bad, Alberta has already approved enough tar sands projects to produce climate pollution that exceeds the current combined emissions from 150 nations.

According to International Energy Agency projections, tar sands projects already under construction will supply all the tar sands oil the world can burn if we hope to keep average global warming below two degrees Celsius and avoid catastrophic climate change. But Alberta won’t stop there. Its government has already has approved further expansion to supply more tar sands oil than the world can burn even if we stay on the path to six degrees warming, or “climate catastrophe."

Current regulations do not meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands development. In the short term, more stringent regulations need to be put in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To allow Canada to meet its commitment to reduce greenhouse gases, the oil and gas sector needs reduce its emissions by 42 per cent by 2020. This will require curtailing tar sands expansion and/or putting a price on carbon emissions of at least $100 per tonne by 2020.

Climate Impacts Updates & Resources

Why a moratorium on oil sands expansion makes sense

Mark Jaccard | Maclean's - August 18th 2014

Press Clipping: An effort to significantly reduce global CO2 emissions would likely cause the price of oil to fall, and with it, oil sands development. A full economic analysis gives a strong probability that humanity would not be rapidly expanding oil sands if it were serious about acting effectively on the costs and benefits of carbon pollution. That is one, but not the only, of our reasons for calling for a moratorium on oil sands expansion.

Michael Mann’s opponents in Hockey Stick Defamation Case regurgitate half-truths in new court filing

Graham Readfern | DeSmog Blog - August 14th 2014

Press Clipping: In October 2012, Professor Michael Mann issued a defamation lawsuit against climate deniers who compared him to a child molester who had “molested and tortured data.” The defendants have lodged a document to the court in the District of Columbia to get the case thrown out. The filing repeats a series of well-thumbed allegations and criticisms that have been levelled at Mann and his colleagues over the years, while ignoring the conclusions of the investigations into those same accusations.

Launching the People’s Climate March


August 6th 2014

Visual: The People's Climate March will be the largest march demanding action on climate change in the history of the planet. It will be held on September 21, 2014, when world leaders are coming to New York City for a UN summit on the climate crisis. UN Secretary­ General Ban Ki-­moon is urging governments to support an ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce global warming pollution. Join us as we take a stand to bend the course of history.

Canadians deserve honest climate talk


Mark Jaccard | Globe and Mail - August 6th 2014

Press Clipping: Another great op-ed from energy and climate economist Mark Jaccard. He is professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University, and one of eight scientists who published a commentary in Nature in June calling for a moratorium on oil sands development. He concludes that "it's time we had some honesty in Canada. Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time. We are being horribly let down by the Harper government."

IMF’s blunt message to nations: Raise fossil-fuel taxes to fight climate change

John H. Cushman Jr. | InsideClimate News - August 2nd 2014

Press Clipping: Countries all over the world, including the United States, should be collecting much higher pollution taxes on fossil fuels—stiff enough to reflect the long-term cost of global warming's damage, the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday in an important new study. "Many energy prices in many countries are wrong. They are set at levels that do not reflect environmental damage, notably global warming."

The Irony File: Tar sands refinery asks government to protect it from sea level rise

Ben Adlern | Grist - July 31st 2014

Press Clipping: This just in from Grist: An oil refinery in Delaware that processes dirty tar sands crude is asking taxpayers to pay for protecting it from rising sea levels. The refinery is on the waterfront, and rising tides and extreme storms could threaten it. After contributing to climate change for more than 50 years, the Delaware City Refining Company (a division of PBF Energy) wants a grant through the federal Coastal Zone Management Act to build natural barriers to protect against storm surges.

BREAKING: Newfound threat to tar sands projects


Andrew Nikiforuk | The Tyee - July 28th 2014

Press Clipping: A new study suggests that naturally occurring upward flow of groundwater in the oilsands region is creating fractures and weaknesses that may explain a series of catastrophic events for the controversial mining industry. The findings, soon to appear in the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, have significant implications for groundwater protection, the security of massive industrial wastewater disposal in the region as well as the economics and placement of more than 100 steam plants and mines.

On emissions, talk has been Ottawa’s only action

Jeffrey Simpson | Globe and Mail - July 19th 2014

Press Clipping: Bruce Carson saw the early years of the Harper government from the inside, and today he wonders why Prime Minister Harper hasn’t bothered to implement policies to reduce GHG emissions from the oil and gas sector. "What happened to the resolve Harper expressed in January, 2010, in relation to the oil and gas sector, especially the oil sands?”