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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Overview:
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

A group shout on climate change

Feature

September 29th 2014

Visual: The UN Climate Summit in New York City clearly moved the ball forward, not so much in the official speeches but on the streets and in the meeting rooms where corporate leaders, investors, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and state and local officials pressed the case for stronger action. President Obama, for one, was as eloquent as ever: “For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.”

Neil Young, Willie Nelson and 8,000 in Nebraska stand up to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

Feature

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz | NRDC - September 29th 2014

Blog Post: Under a warm September sun, thousands spread out across the cornfield on the Tanderup family farm in Neligh, Nebraska and sang along with Neil Young and Willie Nelson to honor the beautiful Nebraska farms and ranches threatened by the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. This concert comes at a time when the fight against tar sands is gaining momentum and showing real results on the ground with postponement and cancellation of tar sands projects.

We must heed Naomi Klein’s call

Ian Gill | The Tyee - September 29th 2014

Press Clipping: Naomi Klein's new book, "This Changes Everything”, makes clear what we're up against and what has to happen. It is unambiguous in its condemnation of a system whose failures are now writ so large as to present the greatest mortal and moral threat our species has ever faced. She is equally unambiguous about what needs to be done, and who needs to do it. And when.

The Wisdom of the Crowds

Feature

Hendrik Hertzberg | The New Yorker - September 25th 2014

Press Clipping: If anyone can be called a leader, even the leader, of the People’s Climate March (and of the movement it represents, for that matter), McKibben’s the one. He dreamed the march up in the first place; he is its intellectual father, he wrote its manifesto, and he was its principal organizer. He is at once its Thomas Paine and its Bayard Rustin. Yet there he was, taking a walk down Central Park West like everybody else.

Globe Editorial: We already know what you won’t do about climate change

Feature

Editorial Board | Globe and Mail - September 25th 2014

Press Clipping: So, the government does not intend to address greenhouse gas emissions, particularly those from the oil-and-gas industry, by adopting a politically suicidal plan of economic destruction? Got it. But what does it intend to do? Telling Canadians what the plan isn’t doesn’t tell us what the plan is, or if you even have one. Which may explain why the PM isn’t eager to be front-and-centre at a UN meeting on climate change. Between the extremes of shutting down the oil sands – totally unreasonable – and doing nothing – totally unacceptable – there’s a lot of middle ground. The government needs to start exploring the territory.