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Climate pollution: 140 nations vs Alberta's tar sands

Graphic by Barry Saxifrage

Today, the climate damage caused by extracting and burning the tarry bitumen from Alberta's oil sands exceeds the combined CO2 emissions from over 100 nations.

The industry plans to double their rate of bitumen extraction within a decade. By 2020 the climate pollution from extracting and burning all this bitumen will exceed the combined CO2 emission from over 140 nations -- home to more than one billion people.

In just the next eight years, the oil sands industry's expansion plans will cause an increase in the annual climate pollution from Alberta's bitumen equal to the combined CO2 emissions from:

Zimbabwe, Zambia, Yemen, Western Sahara, Wake Island, Virgin Islands, British, Virgin Islands,  U.S., Vanuatu, Uruguay, Uganda, U.S. Pacific Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tunisia, Tonga, Togo, Timor-Leste (East Timor), Tanzania, Tajikistan, Swaziland, Suriname, Sudan and South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Solomon Islands, Slovenia, Sierra Leone, Seychelles, Senegal, Sao Tome and Principe, Samoa, Saint Vincent/Grenadines, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Helena, Rwanda, Reunion, Paraguay, Papua New Guinea, Panama, Palestinian Territories, Niue, Niger, Nicaragua, New Caledonia, Netherlands Antilles, Nepal, Nauru, Namibia, Mozambique, Montserrat, Montenegro, Mongolia, Moldova, Mauritius, Mauritania, Martinique, Malta, Mali, Maldives, Malawi, Madagascar, Macedonia, Macau, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Liberia, Lesotho, Lebanon, Latvia, Laos, Kyrgyzstan, Kiribati and Kenya.

And that is just a start. The Alberta oil sands industry has already announced specific project plans that would quadruple today's bitumen extraction capacity. Neither the industry nor the Alberta government have set any limits on how much carbon they will try to extract. The Canadian government has yet to impose any regulations of any kind on the climate pollution from the industry.

This incredibly rapid expansion of high-climate-polluting oil is taking place against a backdrop of increasingly dramatic climate changes. In the last couple years, major global institutions -- like the United Nations, the International Energy Agency, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and international financial giants like Citi, HSBC, and UBC -- have stepped forward to say loud and clear that the extraction and burning of fossil fuels needs to ramp down quickly if humanity hopes to preserve a safe climate system.

My chart below compares the CO2 emission from extracting and burning Alberta bitumen to all the fossil fuel burning by more than a billion people in 140 nations.

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Comments

Don't blame Alberta

Full disclosure, I am from Alberta, though, I would love to see a post-carbon world. I get your message and I don't disagree with your general premis; fossil fuels are bad and tar-sands are especially harmful.

That being said, stacking "Albert Tar-Sands" next to the rest of the world is a bit disingenuous. Are you suggesting that Alberta is polluting more than all of these other nations? Is tar sands not exported To other provinces and countries? Most of the companies pulling oil out of Alberta aren't even Canadian. As a resource rich province, Alberta gets scraps for royalties under the premise that low taxes and royalties will somehow encourage investing in a resource that sells itself... we also take the brunt of the blame.

Your a typical greenpeace

Your a typical greenpeace freak, the oil sands are the future!

 

Blaming Alberta

Yes I blame Alberta's visionless government policies for continued tarsands developments FACILITATING greater GHG in the face of global tragedy. So, William, the answer is YES.

a visionless future @ yonkitonk

"Tarsands are the future"...?! Now here is a perspective that reaches no further than the inside of their pockets. Tarsands are an absolute DEAD END and anyone not seeing this is a dead head.The day you can eat the stuff, then I'll reconsider. Totally visionless perspective. duh.

yup, duh.

JPierre wrote:

"Tarsands are the future"...?! Now here is a perspective that reaches no further than the inside of their pockets. Tarsands are an absolute DEAD END and anyone not seeing this is a dead head.The day you can eat the stuff, then I'll reconsider. Totally visionless perspective. duh.

 

Well, considering 'that stuff' delivers every last scrap of food that you DO eat to your table. Considering that without 'that stuff' you would be reduced to trying to feed a world or 7 billion on steam power (yay deforestation) technology. Considering that trying to do that would mean killing 6 billion (you pick which 6 of your 7 friends dies). Considering 'that stuff' is what makes every facet of your life possible.....

 

 I'd say you're the dead head.

Who's to blame

Dustin says "don't blame Alberta". My personal view is that many people profit from the bitumen extracted from Alberta. All have some level of responsibility for the climate impact. At the top of the list however is the government of Alberta (and by extension the people that elected them).

1. The Alberta government controls how much bitumen can come out of the ground. They are the gatekeepers...nobody else. At a time the world needs to ramp down fossil fuel extraction, the Alberta government is approving massive increases from the bitumen they own.

2. The Alberta government (and the people of Alberta) make the majority of the profit from the extraction and sale bitumen. Both CAPP and CERI show that over 90% of GDP benefit to Canada stays in Alberta. CERI data shows that the Alberta government stands to collect more than the bitumen companies per barrel over the long term.

3. The Alberta government is primarily responsible for the regulations that control the climate pollution from extracting the bitumen as well. As CERI and EnvCanada data shows the Alberta climate regulations are so full of loopholes that the dirtiest form of bitumen extraction is surging to dominance.

Other groups, like the bitumen companies and the people in Canada and USA that use the resulting oil have a share in the responsibility as well.

Sleel wrote:

 

Well, considering 'that stuff' delivers every last scrap of food that you DO eat to your table.... Considering 'that stuff' is what makes every facet of your life possible.....

The same argument was probably made about slavery in the American south to justify that immoral energy system.

The world uses lots of oil today and the use of that is causing a serious crisis with our climate and oceans. We need to shift to a different energy system quickly for our own safety and that means using less and less oil. If humans choose to use the dirtiest forms of oil like bitumen it means that humans will get less energy out the remaining oil before we hit our climate's CO2 limit. To maximize fossil fuel energy from remaining CO2 budget will require humans prioritize the least-CO2-per-joule sources.


Those people that care about is how much oil energy remains for humanity will want to prioritize lowest-CO2 sources to maximize energy delivered.

another Albertan perspective

I'm from Alberta. I did not vote for this government. I bike every day to work. I grow the majority of my own vegetables. I organize in my community against greenhouse heavy industries. Just wanted to point out that we are not all part of the problem!

Alberta to outstrip U.S.

Are you sure that infographic is right? I projects that Alberta will outstrip the U.S. in the next few years.

False

What this article purports is false.  It is shrieking hysterically in an attempt to ruin lives in Canada while the end effect will be to outsource the pollution elsewhere.

If we want to become "sustainable" we should be ending foreign aid which helps grow out of control 3rd world populations to unsustainable levels.  This creates further hunger, pollution, poverty and disease.