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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

Warmer temperatures are bad for the economy, study finds

Seth Bornstein | Associated Press - December 16th 2014

Press Clipping: Hotter days mean less cold cash for Americans, according to a new study matching 40 years of temperatures to economics. And, the study's authors predict, if the world continues on its current path of greenhouse gas emissions, even warmer temperatures later this century will squeeze the U.S. economy by tens of billions of dollars each year.

Kerry feels heat on Keystone oil pipeline at U.N. climate talks

Valerie Volcovici | Reuters - December 12th 2014

Press Clipping: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday urged countries at U.N. climate talks in Lima to move away from using fossil fuels while demonstrators gathered outside the meeting urged him to reject the Keystone oil pipeline. "Coal and oil may be cheap ways to power an economy today... but I urge nations around the world: Look further down the road," he said. Environmental activists in Lima said if Kerry approves Keystone XL, he would be going against the spirit of his speech.

Include climate change when assessing pipeline projects, groups urge

Raveena Aulakh | Toronto Star - December 12th 2014

Press Clipping: More than 60 green and community groups are asking Canada’s National Energy Board to include climate change in its assessment of the $12-billion Energy East project, adding momentum to the push to have environmental factors taken into consideration for pipeline projects. “It is incomprehensible that we don’t assess pipeline projects for impact on climate change,” said Cam Fenton of 350.org. With the board set to review the application for the Energy East pipeline in the next couple of months, “this is the moment to have that conversation.”

Catholic bishops from every continent call for ‘an end to the fossil fuel era’

Jeff Spross | Think Progress - December 12th 2014

Press Clipping: A group of Catholic Bishops called on the world’s governments to end fossil fuel use on Wednesday, citing climate change’s threat to the global poor as the lodestar of their concern. According to the BBC, the statement is the first time senior officials in the Church from every continent have issued such a call. Striking a similar note to Naomi Klein’s recent book, “This Changes Everything,” the bishops’ statement also argued that global capitalism and its economic systems, as currently designed, are incompatible with long-term ecological sustainability

The Reality of Stephen Harper vs. The Reality of Carbon Taxes

Carol Linnitt | DeSmog Canada - December 12th 2014

Press Clipping: Last night Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his house band, the Van Cats, warbled through a performance of the Guns n’ Roses classic ‘Sweet Child of Mine.’ Less than 24 hour earlier that the Prime Minister was singing a different tune, railing against the concept of carbon taxes and regulation of the fossil fuel industry during Question Period in the House of Commons. “It would be crazy economic policy to do unilateral penalties on that sector; we're clearly not going to do that. …In fact, Mr. Speaker, nobody in the world is regulating their oil and gas sector."

Regulating greenhouse gas emissions isn’t crazy - Harper is


Kevin Grandia | Spake Media - December 11th 2014

Blog Post: Here in Lima, Peru at the United Nations climate change talks, I am watching negotiators from impacted countries like the Philippines working earnestly on a new agreement to reduce global climate pollution. At the same time, I am reading stories back home about Prime Minister Stephen Harper telling the House of Commons yesterday that regulating greenhouse gas emissions from Canada's oil and gas sector would be "crazy.” Let's be clear who is crazy here: It’s Mr. Harper and his Conservative government.

A facepalm-inducing climate proposal from the Government of Canada

Kelsey Mech | Canadian Youth Climate Coalition - December 8th 2014

Blog Post: At the COP20 UN Climate Negotiations in Lima, governments around the world will be discussing their commitments for emissions reduction targets. These commitments are slated to come in the form of intended nationally-determined contributions (INDCs) and are due in March 2015 - three short months from now. Canada’s most recent ADP submission, a key document that will help shape our INDCs, is pathetic. It avoids any mention of the tar sands and our increasing inability to meet emissions targets, and outlines only a handful of inadequate “solutions”. Here are the lowlights from the dismal proposal.

Survey shows Canadians want action on climate change

Editors | Tar Sands Solutions - December 2nd 2014

Blog Post: As Canada's environment minister heads to the United Nations climate change summit this week, a survey on Canadians' views about climate change reveals an overwhelming majority (88 per cent) want Canada to commit to significant new actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Canadians express most concern (78 per cent) about what climate change will mean for their children and future generations. The survey also shows majority public support for a tax on carbon-based fuels across the country.