Complacent governments and a handful of large oil corporations are driving massive growth of the tar sands while ignoring or obfuscating their many negative impacts. Investing billions in more dirty energy infrastructure only makes it more difficult to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and prevents us from building a secure and sustainable economy for future generations.
Instead, we must stop the expansion of the tar sands, clean up the mess we have already made, diversify Canada's economy, and invest in a clean energy future that will be more resiliant as governments around the world get serious about climate change.
Stop Tar Sands Expansion
There is literally no limit to the amount of tar sands development the Alberta and Canadian governments are willing to allow. The oil industry plans to triple tar sands oil production by 2030. Such rapid expansion without a national conversation about its consequences only exacerbates the serious social, economic and environmental problems of today.
The worst consequence of massive investment in tar sands expansion and the web of pipelines necessary to carry its oil to market is that it locks us into relying on dirty oil for another century. This will lead to the most catastrophic impacts of a climate warmed beyond recognition. The resulting six degree Celsius increase in global temperature will wreak havoc on the stability that modern civilization requires to function. The intractable problems and extraordinary risks of a world powered by tar sands and other "extreme energy" are just too great.
Cleaning Up the Tar Sands
While the tar sands will never be a clean or sustainable source of energy, much can be done today to address the serious social and environmental problems that are impacting air, water, wildlife and people in the tar sands region. A moratorium on new development would allow industry to focus on implementing existing technologies that can mitigate air and water pollution, prevent the extirpation of threatened species like woodland caribou, begin long-overdue reclamation and restoration efforts, and significantly decrease greenhouse gas pollution.
A concerted effort must also be made to honor Aboriginal treaty rights. This includes the development of meaningful consultation with First Nations in the tar sands region, eliminating the health impacts of polluted water and declining and contaminated food sources, and ensuring that their rights to hunt, fish and gather traditional food sources can continue in perpetuity.
Building a Clean Energy Future
Canadians, like millions of people all over the world, want a future that includes secure and sustainable sources of energy, a healthy environment, and a stable climate. This can only be achieved by phasing out tar sands and other extreme energy development. Decreasing our reliance on oil by enhancing energy efficiency and investing in wind, solar and other alternative sources of energy are critical steps on the road to a clean energy future.
The economic benefits of making this transition are huge. Investing in clean energy will also improve Canada's economic outlook, which is now hampered by over-investment in tar sands development and tied to global commodity prices. A more diversified economy will create far more jobs than the tar sands do, and eliminate the economic risks associated with relying on carbon-intensive industries like the tar sands in a world committed to drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next two decades.