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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

HSBC warns clients of fossil fuel investment risks

Luke Hurst | Newsweek - April 22nd 2015

Press Clipping: Global banking giant HSBC has warned investors of the growing risk of their fossil fuel assets becoming useless. In the report, titled ‘Stranded assets: what next?’, analysts warn of the growing likelihood that fossil fuel companies may become “economically non-viable”, as people move away from carbon energy and fossil fuels are left in the ground. The report argues that investors who stay in fossil fuels “may one day be seen to be late movers, on ‘the wrong side of history’”.

Wynne urges Harper to act on climate at Quebec premier’s summit


Krystle Alarcon | Vancouver Observer - April 22nd 2015

Press Clipping: Three days after 25,000 Canadians marched in Ottawa to demand more action on climate, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Canada needs to take "more responsibility" to tackle climate change, and that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has to "take a position" on the issue. Wynne said she believes the prime minister would be present at the UN climate conference in December, but urged the federal government to take a stronger stance. "I think the federal government has to take a position," Wynne said.

The Faulty Logic Behind the Argument That Canada’s Emissions Are a ‘Drop in the Bucket’

Carol Linnitt | DeSmog Canada - April 17th 2015

Press Clipping: The debate about climate change isn’t merely a moral one. The cost of failing to act will almost certainly outweigh the costs of acting. Think: floods, heat waves, adaptation efforts, rising sea levels, water scarcity, lower crop yields and wildfires. Economic research by experts like Yale’s William Nordhaus demonstrates that waiting to act on climate will cost a lot — like in the trillions-of-dollars a lot. Canada’s poor-sport attitude on climate change amounts to a major ‘tragedy of the commons’ outcome: If everyone shrugs off their individual responsibilities, we’re all going to suffer.

If pipelines are dead, Harper helped kill them

L. Ian MacDonald | iPolitics - April 15th 2015

Press Clipping: Nobody can pretend Canada is a world leader on fighting climate change. We signed on to the 2009 Copenhagen target of reducing emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. We’re on course to miss that target … by a lot. As David McLaughlin, former head of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, recently wrote in Policymagazine: “Without additional measures, Canada will miss its target by … almost 50 per cent.”

Why don’t we have GHG policy for the oil sands? Blame Stephen Harper.

Andrew Leach | Policy Options - April 14th 2015

Press Clipping: There is one person to blame for the fact that Canada, to date, does not have greenhouse gas policy for the oil sands: Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Had greenhouse gas policy for the oil sands and other major emitters been seen as critical to the federal government’s agenda, they’d be implemented today. As it happens, they’re not.

Albertans have plenty of reason to Norwail

Mitchell Anderson | The Tyee - April 14th 2015

Press Clipping: Back in 2012, The Tyee sent me to Norway to write a 10-part series on what Canada could learn from a country that has saved $1 trillion in oil wealth. To understand the root of the Alberta resource problem, look no further than this helpful infographic recently released by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, which itemizes oil production and resource revenues in Alberta, Alaska and Norway in 2013. Which place is doing a better job of capturing public value from a public resource? Norway realized revenues of $87.69 per barrel in 2013. Alaska managed $38.54. And Alberta? Just $4.38 -- one-twentieth what our Norwegian cousins managed to rake in.

Editorial: On the hot seat

Editorial Board | Calgary Herald - April 14th 2015

Press Clipping: This from the editorial board of the Calgary Herald: "With climate change the most important environmental issue facing Canada, Premier Jim Prentice should have taken a couple of days off from campaigning, or at least sent a cabinet minister, to attend the premiers’ climate-change summit in Quebec, which opens Tuesday. Instead, Prentice will send “senior government officials” to the summit and their job will be to observe what goes on. The optics of this are terrible. The rest of the provinces have long harboured a suspicion that Alberta cares the least about greenhouse gas emissions because of its dependence on the oilsands.

VIDEO: We’ve reached our boiling point


Editors | Tar Sands Solutions - April 14th 2015

Blog Post: Thousands of people swarmed the Fontaine de Tourny in front of the Quebec parliament on Saturday to create a giant human thermometer to show that we’ve reached our boiling point and so has the planet. It’s time to act on climate. But that was only part of the enormous crowd in Quebec City this afternoon. Police estimated it at over 25,000, making it the largest protest in Quebec City in fifteen years, and one of the largest climate marches in Canadian history.