Tar sands are the fifth largest climate threat in the world

Feature story - January 22, 2013
Canada’s tar sands ranked fifth of the 14th largest carbon intensive projects in the world, according to a new report from Greenpeace International.


The “Point of No Return” notes government hypocrisy on major energy projects - like the tar sands - which increases climate change and places populations at risk, citing the proposed massive coal expansion in Australia, China, the US and Indonesia, oil expansion in the Arctic and Brazil, and new gas production in the Caspian Sea and the US.

“No government can approve mega projects like Shell’s proposed new tar sands mines and claim they want to prevent climate chaos and devastation,” said Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaign coordinator for Greenpeace Canada.

Stewart presented the early results from the Canadian component of the report in November 2012 to the Joint Review Panel assessing Shell’s proposed expansion of the Jackpine tar sands mine.

The new report includes groundbreaking analysis by consultancy Ecofys which shows that by 2020 these 14 projects will increase CO2 emissions by six gigatonnes a year. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that despite years of government promises to reduce emissions, CO2 emissions are already at a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes.

Yet industry is pushing 14 huge coal, oil and gas projects that will soon add 20% to the emissions already causing climate change. Download high resolution version of the image


The Ecofys modeling found that the yearly CO2 emissions from these projects will be higher than total US emissions and will result in catastrophic global warming.

As key business and government leaders gather in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum (WEF), they will find WEF’s “Global Risks 2013” report which warns that we are on course for the global temperature to increase by 3.6 to 4℃, possibly by six degrees. These increases are well above the promise of governments to keep global warming to below a two degree increase.

Canada plans to triple dirty oil production from the tar sands, causing a big boost in CO2 emissions. Vast areas of wilderness have already been destroyed to get at the oil.


“Given the human suffering, destruction and economic turmoil of recent extreme weather events, a world with runaway climate change is a frightening prospect. We cannot let that be our legacy,” said Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, who is attending the WEF.

“We have the renewable energy solutions we need to avoid devastating climate change,” said Stewart “but when companies like Shell are promoting, and the Harper government is allowing, these massive climate threats stand in the way.”