Enbridge oilsands pipeline's economic damage could exceed $100 billion

The proposed Enbridge pipeline across B.C. would open the door for more than a billion additional tonnes of carbon to be pulled out of the tar sands and vaporized into our climate system. Whether this carbon is vaporized from a pipeline accident (like the one pictured above) or when burned later in China, the resulting climate pollution would be the same.

Estimates of the economic damages caused by this climate pollution range from tens of billions to hundreds of billions of dollars.

Every tonne of CO2 that humans spill into the atmosphere further destabilizes our climate and acidifies our oceans. These changes cost human society, both now and into the future. Economists call the economic damages from these changes the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC).

A recent survey published by the Canadian think tank Sustainable Prosperity looked at over two hundred estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon by economists worldwide. The middle third of estimates ranged from $6 to $27 in economic damages per tonne of CO2. The mathematical mean was $42 per tonne. Ten percent of these estimates topped $95 per tonne. Environment Canada estimated $27 a few years ago. The UK government’s famous Stern Review on climate change used $25. This is similar to the current BC Carbon Tax rate of $25 that Gordon Campbell’s government legislated for BC residents and businesses. (Note: all monetary values in this article are in 2011 dollars).

Applying these values to the 8.5 billion barrels of tar sands that the proposed Enbridge “Northern Gateway Pipeline to our Atmosphere” could pump out, yields economic damages ranging from $28 billion to over $400 billion.

Total economic damages from 8.5b bbls

Based on SCC per tonne of CO2

SCC estimate by

$28 billion


33rd percentile of all estimates

$50 billion


Median of all estimates

$109 billion


BC Carbon Tax rate

$110 billion


UK Stern Review

$116 billion


66th percentile of all estimates

$119 billion


Environment Canada 2007 fuel review

$182 billion


Mean value of all estimates

$422 billion


90th percentile of all estimates

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Do the math with higher published values

e.g. Jakob, Craig & Fisher (2005)  $178
Hohmeyer & Gartner (1992) $326
Bein (1997)  $917


All in 2007 USD

does not solve the issue

the problem is that stopping this pipeline does not prevent the calculated environmental cost to dissappear. The oil will still be produced, and will still be piped somewhere....perhaps just not through BC....on its way to Asia. 

Unless there is a way to stop the entire process from happening at all, then this environmental cost is a sunk cost.....unchangeable....and it would be incorrect economic analysis to include it as a "cost".

For BC, what BC needs to do is, of course, to encourage research into sustainable resources. However, in regards to this pipeline, the balance should be between the financial benefits to BC, vs the cost (environmental and social) to BC that would not be incurred if the pipeline isn't built. As stated again, this cost does NOT include the $100 billion or whatever it states in economic damage, since that would occur regardless. 

However, IF BC gets significant economic and financial benefit from this project, then BC can fund what it is already famous at doing.....researching environmentally friendly solutions and alternative power sources! Perhaps this research and its potential outcome will cause, ultimately, a GREATER than $100 billions economic output, and remove the world from oil dependency without significantly affecting world energy supply and demand.

Research and development is key. Stopping isolated pipelines without coordination with the rest of the world (such as with all the provinces, territories, and states surrounding Alberta) will NOT do much except deny BC of potential income.

Ditch the Junk Science

With so many real reasons for squelching Northern Gateway, why do you harp on the one bogus one?

Satellites Confirm: Atmospheric Global Cooling Reigns, Not The IPCC's Predicted CO2 "Global Warming"

The 2012 year-end satellite measurements continue to be cruel to the IPCC's green-sharia scientists - this UN agency has long predicted huge atmospheric global warming from CO2 emissions .....yet in reality, global cooling currently dominates


global warming

Everyone return to Cro Magnon man;  we are now, in this town;  as unemployment rises (which does worse damage to the environment than most industry) muggings, burglaries and murders escalate.  China and Russia KNOW we are hilarious.  We will be so easy for them to colonize......what dreams we fulfill.