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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

Senate rejects human role in climate change

Clare Davenport | New York Times - January 23rd 2015

Press Clipping: The Senate on Thursday again voted to reject two measures related to the Keystone XL pipeline that declared that humans are a cause of climate change — the second set of votes on the issue in two days. Senators are using the Keystone debate to argue over climate issues. The Democrats want to force their Republican colleagues to come out one way or another on whether they believe humans have a role in changes to the climate and the rise of global temperatures. Republicans telegraphed their intent to attack President Obama’s climate policy agenda.

Canadians are ready for carbon pricing, politicians not so much

Carrie Saxifrage | Vancouver Observer - January 20th 2015

Press Clipping: A majority of Canadians know they are part of the problem and want to be part of the solution. In the international arena, an ever-increasing number of nations are pricing carbon, including China, the European Union and South Korea. Environics polling shows that 56% of Canadians would support a BC-type carbon price in their province. The support is strongest in Ontario and Quebec, which are considering similar measures. Unlike the US, in Canada the support crosses party lines: 45% of Conservatives would support a carbon tax.

Poll: Americans favor Obama energy agenda

Andrew Restuccia | Politico - January 16th 2015

Press Clipping: A majority of the public is opposed to key planks of congressional Republicans’ energy agenda, including efforts to roll back environmental regulations, according to a new poll by a liberal group. The poll, which was conducted by Hart Research Associates on behalf of the Center for American Progress, found that the public is strongly in favor of many of President Barack Obama’s environmental policies, including efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Support for the Keystone XL pipeline also has decreased.

Tar sands inspires winning climate movement

Feature

Editors | Tar Sands Solutions - January 14th 2015

Blog Post: 2014 was a watershed year for the climate movement, which reached fever pitch last year because of the growing opposition to tar sands oil and the various pipeline proposals that would carry this dirty crude to market. "In the process of fighting, that movement has grown exponentially,” wrote Grist’s David Roberts. “It is now larger, more coherent, and more activated than it was before the Keystone battle. In sum: The climate movement picked a fight, trained, bulked up, kept at it, and now looks like it’s going to win."

Oil sands must remain largely unexploited to meet climate target, study finds

Feature

Ivan Semeniuk | Globe and Mail - January 8th 2015

Press Clipping: As U.S. President Barack Obama and a Republican-led Congress spar over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a new analysis of worldwide fossil-fuel reserves suggests that most of the Alberta oil the pipeline is meant to carry would need to remain in the ground if nations are to meet the goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius.

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.