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The tar sands and climate change

Alberta’s tar sands produce some of the world’s dirtiest oil - 3-4 times as much greenhouse gas emissions per barrel as the production of regular crude oil.

Thanks to the rapidly rising emissions from the tar sands, upstream oil and gas is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. The tar sands alone spew out more CO2 than all the cars in the country combined.

Largest dirty energy expansion

The tar sands also represent a global threat. According to research by Ecofys, commissioned by Greenpeace International, Canada’s tar sands ranked fifth of the 14th largest carbon intensive projects in the world.

Pipelines map 2014

Tailings Ponds at the Alberta Tar Sands

Landlocked in northern Alberta, the tar sands needs access to tidewater via pipelines to allow further expansion and to reach markets in Asia, Europe, USA, etc.. Railway and truck capacity is far too limited to replace pipelines.

Former UN Climate chief Christiana Figueres summarized the work of the scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change when she said, “three quarters of the (world’s) fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground” in order to have a good chance to stabilize the planet’s climate. That means many tar sands projects can simply never be built if humanity is to have a good chance of avoiding catastrophe and Canada is to do its part to address the growing climate crisis.





Not your average oil

Spills will happen – it’s just a matter of when and where. Alberta already averages more than one spill per day. The tar sands produce a heavy form of crude oil that has to be diluted with toxic chemicals, heated and pressurized in order to flow. When a tar sands pipeline spills, the toxic chemicals threaten human health and the spill is nearly impossible to clean up because unlike conventional oil, bitumen sinks in water. Enbridge has spent more than one billion dollars trying to clean up its 2010 tar sands spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Toxic tar sands oil remains in the environment.

A dead, oil-soaked muskrat lies next to the Kalamzoo River


When diluted tar sands oil spills into water, the condensate evaporates, creating a toxic, carcinogenic cloud. Most of the heavy bitumen remains and can sink, coating the bottom of the lake or river with thick goo, making it much more difficult to clean up than a conventional oil spill. 


The latest updates


Faces of Greenpeace: Meet the people behind our resistance

Blog entry by Jesse Firempong | March 20, 2018

Greenpeace has been at the heart of the environmental movement on the Pacific coast, in Canada and around the world for more than 40 years. Now, just 20-odd kilometres from where we launched our first ship from Vancouver in 1971,...

LIVE UPDATES! Indigenous leaders and supporters to take bold action against Kinder...

Blog entry by Jesse Firempong | March 17, 2018

Today, Indigenous leaders are leading community members in ceremony and action at Kinder Morgan’s construction site on Burnaby Mountain in Vancouver, on Canada's Pacific Coast. We'll be live blogging what happens here!   A...

Together We Rise: the fight against Kinder Morgan about to reach new heights.

Blog entry by Mike Hudema | March 9, 2018

Today, Indigenous leaders from across Canada and the United States gathered in Coast Salish territories (Vancouver) to announce the latest escalation in the battle to stop the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline. The project called ...

Trudeau's Pipeline Dilemma: Time to reverse course on Kinder Morgan

Blog entry by Mike Hudema | March 5, 2018

"If you're headed the wrong way, turn around."   When Justin Trudeau approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline, he had just been elected, and Rachel Notley was a national political darling. At the time, Notley was the first Albertan...

Growing GHGs from oil industry put Canadian climate goal further out of reach:...

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | February 26, 2018

The Canadian government has filed a report with the United Nations that shows that the gap between the greenhouse gas reductions we promised to make under the Paris climate agreement and where current and planned policies will get us...

Tar Sands Pipeline ‘War of the Rosés’ fight missing wine and science

Blog entry by Mike Hudema | February 13, 2018

There’s been a lot written about last weeks ‘War of the rosés’ but one of the things that has been missed in that conversation is the science (or lack thereof) that preceded it all. Two years before Kinder Morgan was ever approved...

Pancakes Not Pipelines: The Fork In The Road

Blog entry by Keith Cherry | February 9, 2018

Photo credit: Mike Graeme Greenpeace Victoria local group organizer, Keith Cherry, shares his experience blockading the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline terminal in Burnaby, BC. The not-no-calm before the storm Last Sunday...

Trudeau’s Keystone XL memos ignore climate change, Indigenous rights

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | February 9, 2018

A big part of Justin Trudeau’s political success is his ability to let his audience project onto him what they want to see. You want climate action: Liberals fully support the Paris climate agreement aiming to keep warming well...

Here's how 2018 got off to a good start

Blog entry by Sarah Wilbore | February 2, 2018

We’re one month into 2018, and already we have good news from around the world and here in Canada to share with you. We discovered a new bird species in Indonesia The Rote myzomela (Myzomela irianawidodoae) belongs to the...

BC finds Kinder Morgan’s Achilles Heel

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | February 1, 2018

The provincial government in British Columbia threw another wrench in Kinder Morgan’s plans to build a new tar sands pipeline this week. On Tuesday, it announced proposed new regulations to govern spills from pipelines that include a...

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