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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

Talking like grownups about climate change

Cass R. Sunstein | Bloomberg - February 11th 2015

Press Clipping: Are Americans worried about climate change? Do they want their government to regulate greenhouse gases? A recent survey -- from Stanford University, the New York Times and Resources for the Future -- found that strong majorities say “yes” to both questions.But a strong majority also say that they oppose increasing taxes on either gasoline or electricity in order to reduce climate change. How can most Americans be unwilling to pay to reduce a problem that they believe (as they indicated in the recent poll) will damage them personally?

Trudeau announces carbon-pricing plan if Liberals win election

Shawn McCarthy | Globe and Mail - February 10th 2015

Press Clipping: The Liberal Leader launched his climate policy – which will be a major plank in his election platform – during a speech on Friday at Calgary’s Petroleum Club, where he acknowledged the spectre of his father’s highly interventionist National Energy Policy lingers. He slammed Stephen Harper for failing to lead on climate policy, saying the Prime Minister has given Canada a black eye internationally, which has hurt the industry’s efforts to build pipelines to transport crude.

Alberta’s Prentice seeks to avoid carbon-tax rise amid oil drop

February 10th 2015

Press Clipping: The premier of Alberta, a province that relies on crude revenue to help fund public services, wants to defer raising a levy on greenhouse gas emissions until other oil-producing jurisdictions introduce their own carbon taxes. “I believe in conservation but I don’t believe in damaging our industrial competitiveness,” Prentice said. Regarding the current carbon regime, “some people would say it’s weak, but most people would also point out no one else has a policy at all, at least no one in the energy business. So this is a balance.”

EPA comments show Keystone XL tar sands pipeline fails the President’s climate test


Anthony Swift | NRDC - February 3rd 2015

Blog Post: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drove what may prove to be the final nail in the coffin for the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in comments released today, linking the project to an expansion of the tar sands and a significant increase in greenhouse case emissions. As the Administration concludes its review of Keystone XL, EPA's critique of the proposed tar sands pipeline exposes the project's impact on climate - an issue that President Obama said would be a threshold issue in deciding whether to allow the project to move forward.

100,000+ Canadians ask NEB to consider climate impacts of pipelines

Editors | Tar Sands Solutions - February 2nd 2015

Blog Post: More than 100,000 messages from people across Canada were hand delivered today to the National Energy Board's (NEB) office in Calgary, demanding climate change be included in the NEB's review of the Energy East tar sands pipeline. "Peter Watson, the head of the NEB, needs to listen to the tens of thousands of Canadians demanding the huge climate impacts of the Energy East tar sands pipeline be included as part of the pipeline review," said Mike Hudema, Climate and Energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada.

Most Republicans say they back climate action, poll finds

Coral Davenport and Marjorie Connelly - February 1st 2015

Press Clipping: An overwhelming majority of the American public, including half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future. In a finding that could have implications for the 2016 presidential campaign, the poll also found that two-thirds of Americans said they were more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change.

What ‘Selma’ can teach the Canadian climate movement

Cam Fenton | 350.org - January 30th 2015

Blog Post: The movie “Selma" was released earlier this month to widespread critical acclaim. While the film is beautifully made and relatively true to the history it is based on, there’s another achievement that most people overlook in the film. Telling the story of the 1965 Voting Rights Marches from Selma to Montgomery, the storyline of Selma is steeped in lessons in organizing and movement strategy, including some big ones for people across Canada planning to stop tar sands pipelines and restore some level of climate sanity in our government.

10-foot inflatable elephant reminds premiers of Energy East’s climate pollution

January 30th 2015

Blog Post: Local groups deployed a large inflatable elephant outside the hotel where premiers met today in Ottawa. The groups were calling attention to the premiers' refusal to evaluate the controversial Energy East pipeline’s climate pollution footprint. “There is a massive 32 megatonne climate pollution elephant sitting in on the premiers meeting,” says Andrea Harden-Donahue, Energy and Climate Justice Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “Provincial leaders can’t be serious about addressing climate change and ignore this pipeline’s massive potential to drive up pollution.”