Canada’s most recent climate policy statement was released on March 29, 2022. It promises deep cuts in our domestic emissions by 2030. The scheme assures Canadians that these policies will contribute to a global effort to keep the ongoing increase in the earth’s average surface temperature within the 1.5°C warming threshold, which Canada solemnly committed to do under the December 2015 Paris Agreement.
Yet, when the Federal Government released the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan, the 288-page document quietly incorporated and affirmed an ambitious plan to continue to substantially increase Canada’s oil production to 2030. Growing our oil production is enshrined in Canada’s official climate policy. Other recent Canadian government reports, examined in this paper, confirm that our oil production will continue to increase to 2040 and remain at high levels until 2050. Canada is the world’s 4th largest oil producer and 3rd largest exporter. We supply about 5% of the world’s crude oil and export 80% of the oil we produce.
This discussion looks at the global implications of Canada’s declared plan to expand its oil production, in the context of the global climate predicament. The evidence is clear that we have reached a moment when our policy choices, the choices we are making now in Canada, will have irrevocable consequences on a global scale.
One year ago, on June 29, 2021, temperatures reached 49.6°C in the town of Lytton, in the interior of British Columbia, an event far exceeding all previous records in Canada and unprecedented for the earth at this northern latitude. That extreme heat was accompanied by massive forest fires that engulfed the interior of B.C. and erupted along the West Coast of the United States through Oregon and California. Those five days of extreme heat, which fatally coincided with a period of low tides, killed vast numbers of marine animals, mussels, barnacles, clams, and myriad other forms of sea life in the tidal shallows along B.C.’s Pacific Coast as temperatures along the rocky shore reached 50°C and super-heated the salmon streams that feed the ocean.
Now, in India during April, unseasonably high temperatures have broken records, hitting 44.72 in Agra and stunningly high levels in multiple other cities, and by early May reached as high as 49.5°C in parts of Pakistan. That rising level of heat in South Asia, accompanied by extraordinary droughts, is pressing the limits of human survivability. Fatal droughts of long duration are persisting down through north-east Africa and across the Sahel to the Atlantic coast. The derangement of the global climate system and resulting destruction of human habitations and natural systems is now far advanced. This paper, using key reports and scenarios published during the past year by climate scientists and by leading international bodies, including by the International Energy Agency (IEA), explains why Canada’s declared plan to continue expanding our oil production for another 10 to 20 years is incompatible with any remaining chance we have to avoid loss that is beyond measure and beyond words.
Click the yellow button to get our discussion paper (opens as a PDF in your browser).