Don’t Be Fooled: Tar Sands Climate Impacts Can’t Be Dealt Away
Now that it’s become clear that the Keystone XL pipeline is a climate disaster, the Harper Government in Canada is seeking to strike a deal. Essentially, it appears that Harper wants President Obama to approve Keystone XL – a carbon pollution fountain – in exchange for some sort of climate mitigation.While no one has seen the details of this supposed deal, the concept is something like this (disclaimer – others have used similar analogies, but it is oh so apt): I need to lose weight. I like ice cream sundaes. Really, really like ice cream sundaes. Right now I eat two sundaes a day. Let me eat three Sundaes a day, so I can ramp up to four or five, and perhaps I’ll walk over to the TV (that’s exercise, right?) and turn it off manually instead of staying on the couch and using the remote. Did I mention how much I love ice cream sundaes?
No one is fooled. As NWF President Larry Schweiger said in a letter to President Obama:
The facts are the facts. Tar sands is a climate killer, extracting it has massive impacts on wildlife, and its expansion will undermine carbon reduction efforts. The Harper Government has a dismal climate record, and the horrible policies in Ottawa are starting to attract attention in the U.S.
We continue to believe that it is imperative that Canada put in place measures to reduce the carbon emissions from its fossil fuel sector. However, the expansion of tar sands production is counter to serious climate change mitigation. Tar sands crude is one of the most carbon intensive fossil fuels in the world and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is a linchpin for massive tar sands expansion. Canada cannot reduce its carbon emissions while also expanding tar sands production.
In recent years, Canada has prioritized the development and expansion of tar sands over addressing climate change. During this same period, Canada has withdrawn from its Kyoto Protocol obligations, stifled climate science, hollowed out Canada’s federal environmental regulations, and recorded a troubling increase in Canada’s carbon emissions.
A recent report by the Canadian organization Environmental Defence details the terrible erosion the Harper Government’s wrongheaded commitment to tar sands development has caused in the country’s climate and environmental safeguards. The report concludes that:
[T]here is no credible mitigation plan proposed or even being considered by Canadian provincial or federal governments that would meaningfully address greenhouse gas pollution from its growing tar sands industry. While it is critical that government and industry act urgently to bring current tar sands operations under control in terms of emissions and environmental management, the planned rapid expansion that a pipeline like the Keystone XL would facilitate simply cannot coexist with the safe climate that our governments have promised to work for.
Some fuels are simply too destructive to develop. Tar sands is one them. We need real progress towards carbon reduction now. We don’t have time to cut bad deals that will imperil wildlife and our children’s future.