Tar Sands Solutions Network

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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

Our government doesn’t speak for us when it comes to climate change


Leehi Yona - September 19th 2014

Blog Post: As a youth delegate at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Leehi Yona saw first hand how the government of Canada fails its people on the international stage through its persistent championing of the tar sands. "I heard testimony after testimony from those whose lives are negatively affected by the tar sands, whose lives are directly impacted by the climate change Canada is willingly playing a leadership role in promoting."

Canada lags the United States on climate and clean energy


Anthony Swift | NRDC - September 19th 2014

Blog Post: As world leaders meet in New York for the United Nations Climate Summit next week, it is becoming all too clear how the paths taken by Canada and the United States have diverged in recent years. A backgrounder released by NRDC and Environmental Defense Canada compares the countries recent record on both climate and clean energy. While the United States has taken significant steps to become a credible actor on climate action while Canada is becoming known internationally for its climate inaction.

Far from harmonized: Canada fails to match U.S. actions on climate change


Tim Gray | Environmental Defence - September 19th 2014

Blog Post: Less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama won the presidency back in 2008, several of Prime Minister Harper’s ministers stated that Canada would work with the U.S. to tackle climate change, mirroring what was going on south of the border. It was the first message to Obama after “Congratulations.” Canadians were told that this would be a priority for the government and that work would begin within weeks. Six years later, it’s clear that the government’s promise was empty.

Why I’m (nervously) carrying a Canadian flag at the climate march


Tzeporah Berman | Globe and Mail - September 19th 2014

Blog Post: This weekend I am going to New York to the People’s Climate March with thousands of other Canadians. Yes, I’ll be bringing my flag. Because I’m proud of our history of leadership – even if we are in a dark time now. I’ll be walking with Canadians who have hope. Who believe Canada can be, again, a real global leader. People who belong to new citizens' movements. First Nations people standing up for their land. People who won’t be silenced. Look for us. We’ll be waving our flags daring to hope for a country that makes us proud again.

Walking the Climate Walk

September 18th 2014

Blog Post: World leaders are meeting in New York City next week for a historic UN summit on climate change. Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn't the only one who can't make it, so NYC-based Purpose has launched the #WalkTheWalk campaign for those who can’t march themselves at the People's Climate March on Sunday in the lead-up to the UN meeting. Here are eight must-see short #WalkTheWalk videos.

We’re down to the last 100 hours before the People’s Climate March


Leslie, Paul, and everyone on the People's Climate March team - September 18th 2014

Blog Post: It's incredible -- we've spent the last six months strengthening this big and beautiful movement of people working together to combat climate change. So many of us experience the climate crisis in such different ways, but coming together for this moment has shown that we all agree that it is time to act. Now it's time to bring the People's Climate March to life. Here’s what you need to know to help make Sunday, September 2 a success.

The world’s most ambitious disaster

Michael Brune | The Sierra Club - September 17th 2014

Blog Post: Brune on the tar sands: "What a waste -- not just of forests, habitat, energy, air, water, health, and our climate. What a waste of human talent.... How much could be achieved if all of this effort, ingenuity, and engineering prowess were instead directed toward developing clean power? Why go to so much trouble to do something so difficult and so destructive when you could invest the same effort into something positive that can literally save the world and power it to boot?"