Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The State of Canada's Environment

Canada was once a global leader in environmental sustainability and the fight against climate change. Although the country is often viewed as synonymous with nature, the truth is that Canada is in serious need of environmental stewardship.

According to a WWF Canadian Living Planet Report, Canadians are some of the biggest consumers of resources in the world. Canada is also one of the world's biggest energy consumers, burning the equivalent of roughly 8,300 kilograms of oil equivalent per person per year.

In Canada, both oil production and gas emissions are expected to multiply as much as four times by the year 2015. One of the single greatest sources of environmental destruction comes from the Alberta tar sands (aka the oil sands). Canada's tar sands have oil reserves of 175 billion barrels which is second only to Saudi Arabia. This has prompting the Canadian NGO Environmental Defense to call the Alberta tar sands, "the most destructive project on earth."

Extracting oil from tar sands release much more greenhouse gas (GHG) then conventional oil, making it Canada's number-one source of GHGs. Alberta's tar sands have also created massive toxic lakes that are so big they can be seen from space. More than half of Canada’s total footprint is a result of their carbon footprint, mostly due to fossil fuel use.

A study by the European Climate Change Commissioner recently found the average GHG intensity of fuel derived from tar sands to be 23 per cent higher than conventional fossil fuels. As a consequence, Europeans are considering imposing penalties or restricting the importation of oil derived from tar sands.

There was a time when Canada was an environmental leader, but under the current Conservative government, those day are long gone.

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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1 comment:

David Mudrauskas said...

The industry emerging around Alberta's tar sands and its accompanying complications are extremely concerning. What's worse, it appears that many of those engaged in it regret its repercussions but carry on for lack of an alternative means of living.

Oil extraction has brought economic growth to this region, but it's not a place I would want to live in. Nonetheless, the longer it goes on, the more vested interests there will become. Whether public or private in origin, a mighty initiative that engages the labor force will be necessary to displace this arrangement.