The Dictionary of the Climate Debate (DCD)

Alberta oil sands emissions
Definition: According to both US and Canadian government statistics:

As of 2007, greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the Canadian oil sands were 37 megatons (out Canada's total of 747 megatons).

Emissions from U.S. coal-fired electricity for the same period were 1,987 megatons.

Thus emissions from the Canadian oilsands represented 1.8% of the total emissions from U.S. coal.

Source: Financial Post, Oil sands emissions dwarfed by coal

1. Of the 37 megatons of oil-sand's emissions, approx 83% come from the cars and trucks using gasoline refined from the oilsands and not from the production per se.

2. Note that since 2007, American coal emissions will have been reduced because of the increase use of cheap natural gas derived from fracking. [Note: When I get more current numbers I'll put them here.]

3. Andrew Weaver: "In 2012 Neil Swart, a PhD student working in my lab, and I published a paper examining the global warming potential of a variety of resources. I further expanded upon this in a piece I wrote in the Huffington Post. We asked the specific question as to how much global warming would occur if we completely burned a variety of fossil fuel resources. Here is what we calculated for the following resources:
(1) tar sands under active development: would add 0.01°C to world temperatures.
(2) economically viable tar sands reserve: would add 0.03°C to world temperatures.
(3) entire tar sands oil in place which includes the uneconomical and the economical resource: would add 0.36°C to world temperatures
(4) total unconventional natural gas resource base: would add 2.86°C to world temperatures
(5) total coal resource base: would add 14.8°C to world temperatures

In other words, the global warming potential of the Alberta tar sands, and in fact all global conventional and unconventional oil reserves, pale in comparison with the potential from coal and unconventional natural gas. This does not mean the tar sands get a “get out of jail free” card. They represent the largest source of greenhouse gas emission growth in Canada and are the single largest reason Canada is failing to meet it’s international climate commitments and failing to be a climate leader.

Source: British Columbia and the Alberta Tar Sands:

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