NCC: Not Much Blood on Canada's Hands!

It's Christmastime in Canada - when all self-satisfied ideologues take a moment to lift the finger of blame and point it at somebody else.

“Credit” for outstanding performance in this regard must go to National Citizens Coalition President andf CEO Peter Coleman. In ringing defence of the former NCC president (and now Canadian Prime Minister) Stephen Harper, Coleman offers a cheery Christmas message that celebrates Canada's reneging on its legal commitment to the Kyoto Accord and dodges Canadian responsibility for contributing to the climate crisis.

Specifically, Coleman talks about appearing before a group of University of Windsor law students, who asked him about Kyoto:

When I responded that Canada emits 2% of the world's greenhouse gases they were surprised to hear that it is that low. When I told them that Alberta's oil sands contribute just 5% of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions they were again surprised as they expected it would be a lot more.

Coleman is actually wrong on the numbers. The latest tally (2008) puts Canada's GHG emissions at “only” 1.8 per cent, which is swell as long as you don't think about Canada's population amounting to just 0.004 per cent of the world's total. That makes Canada the fourth worst polluter per capita. It also makes our 34 million inhabitants the seventh largest source of CO2 among all the countries in the world - that's seventh from a list of 216 countries and jurisdictions.

And what of the tar sands supposedly tiny contribution? If it was a country, the tar sands 0.09 per cent share of global GHG emissions would put it in a tie with Ecuador in 76th place. The tar sands alone emit more CO2 than the bottom 60 countries and jurisdictions COMBINED. Canada as a country produces more than the bottom 135 countries - combined.

This somehow makes Coleman proud. It gives him courage to deride China, which “gets a free pass even though they contribute over 20 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases.” Yes, and that at a rate of less than half of Canada's on a per capita basis - and despite the amount of CO2 that is derived from the production of goods that are, in fact, consumed in Canada.

Coleman makes one point worth acknowledging: he criticizes the Liberal government of Jean Chretien for having signed the Kyoto Accord without making any attempt to comply with it. Too right. Canada's humiliation began under the Chretien Liberals, but it took the self-righteous determination of the Harper Conservatives to make it complete.

It remains a mystery, however, as to why this should leave Peter Coleman feeling smug.


Canada has 34 million people, and manages to produce 2% of the world’s CO2.

That’s huge….

But remember folks, Canada emits “ethical” C02. And if uncle Ezra says we are “the boy scouts of the world” it must be true.

Breaking news:

Internal government documents show that Canada’s scientific and environmental bureaucracy does not share the Conservative government’s view that oil sands projects in Alberta have relatively little negative impact on the environment

So… This is a real low point in Canada’s values.  Harper wants us to prop up despots and the industry wants us to call it ‘ethical’.

Orwell’s Ministry of Truth couldn’t twist this more.

The biggest lie of all is that tar sands climate footprint is just 5% the size of Canada’s footprint. That isn’t fooling anyone…especially the climate.

The tar sands carbon that the climate cares about and that the industry profits from is nearly 300 MtCO2 this year. That is the full wells-to-wheels footprint and the one that freaks out climate hawks.

Canada’s carbon emissions are around 580 MtCO2. So tar sands are already generating climate damage that is half of that. Not 5%.

The notion that tar sands aren’t liable in any way for the “economic carbon” they profit from is exactly the kind of fiction that Wall Street bankers created around the housing bubble that brought down the global economy. In both cases one industry wanted to rake in the profits while offloading and hiding the risk. Imagine tobacco companies saying they are only liable for the cigarette smoke that happens while cigarettes are being made…but not used according to directions? They tried that and failed spectacularly.

Now the tar sands industry wants to double the carbon they extract and sell by 2020. We are talking a profit strategy that requires 600 MtCO2 of climate damages per year coming out of Alberta tar patch. That is huge. More than all fossil fuel burning in all of Canada. In fact that puts Alberta carbon as the sixth dirtiest “nation” on earth all by itself. It is more carbon than 120 nations combined burn. It is drop dead huge.

It is also a massive carbon bubble inflated by “irrational carbon exuberance.” Albertans are going to be in a heap of trouble as the world continues to revoke the social license of the tar sands to expand so radically without taking any responsibility for the damage they are selling.

Like it or not, Albertans need the good will of the rest of the world to build an endless series of pipeline to haul all that new tar out and to buy it. They are never going to get that with the lies they are selling about the size of the climate damage they are creating and profiting from.

Bottom line: tar sands are creating a carbon bomb that is already 50% the size of Canada’s emissions and set to double this decade.