Citizen Action Monitor

Continuing addiction to fossil fuels exposes Canadians to supersized risks to our economy and climate

These risks, rarely mentioned by political leaders, are now surging to potentially dangerous levels, alleges researcher.

No 1904 Posted by fw, March 6, 2017

Barry Saxifrage

“Did you know that: We Canadians are now one of the world’s largest extractors of climate pollution, per capita? We’re planning one of world’s biggest increases through 2030? Our relentlessly increasing extraction has become a supersized gamble that threatens both climate hope and our economic stability? Well, I was certainly surprised by the extreme scale of what we’re doing when my spreadsheet spit out the initial numbers. So I asked around and spent weeks researching deeper…. It turns out we’ve built ourselves an economy that must dig up and sell extremely high levels of climate pollution per capita – in the form of fossil fuel carbon — just to function properly. And we are planning absolutely gigantic increases on top of that. This yields well-known short-term benefits from selling so much climate-polluting fuel. But it also carries supersized risks to the stability of our climate and our economy. These are rarely mentioned and are now surging to potentially dangerous levels…. Despite the growing risk to both our climate and our economy, Canada’s leaders have no ‘Plan B.’”Barry Saxifrage, National Observer

Saxifrage, who researches, charts and writes about the latest climate change information, backs up his warnings with clear, concise spreadsheet graphs.

Re Saxifrages’s sole reliance on a “per capita” measure of CO2 emissions in his article, critics will pounce, arguing that Canada’s “total emissions” are dwarfed by major emitters like China. In answer to this argument, Kevin Anderson, Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the Universities of Uppsala (Sweden) and Manchester (UK), replies:

It’s not really an argument. It’s an excuse for inaction…. We are finding every excuse for inaction. And Canada is a major producer of fossil fuels. And Canada is producer of what is the dirtiest fossil fuels – the tar sands. I think it’s morally irresponsible to argue that Canada has no significant responsibility in relation to climate change. It has responsibility historically, it has responsibility in terms of demonstrating leadership, and its emissions do matter.”

Below is a summary of Barry Saxifrage’s main findings. To read his full article, replete with charts, on the National Observer website, click on the following linked title.


Canadians are making a supersized gamble on climate and the economy  by Barry Saxifrage, National Observer, February 21, 2017

Following up on Barry Saxifrage’s broad-brush account of Canadians’ supersized predicament, copied above as an introduction to his thesis, here’s a summary of his spreadsheet numbers, sans charts, to back up his thesis.


FACT: Canada is one of the world’s dozen largest carbon pollution extractors per capita, and we are certainly at the extreme end among our major economy peers. The fossil fuels – oil, gas, and coal – taken from the ground just last year unleashed twice as much CO2 per person as Americans, five times as much as the Chinese, and ten times as much as the European Union.

FACT: Separating out oil production, Canada unleashes “a truly massive 20 tons of CO2 per person in the form of oil”, which alone undermines Trudeau’s goal of meeting our announced global warming target limit of 2°C.

FACT: Comparing Canada and US historical and projected per capita levels of carbon pollution for the years 1990, 2015, and 2030 projected: In 1990, Canadian and American carbon pollution extraction levels were “fairly similar”; By 2015, Canada has “supersized” CO2 extraction, while America has reduced its levels by a couple of tons per capita; Projecting to 2030, government data predicts “We are headed for around 36 tCO2 extracted per capita”.


FACT: A new report by Oil Change International concludes that Trudeau cannot increase tar sands production and achieve his Paris goals. The two are mutually exclusive. This finding is supported by a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ study: “We are pushing global climate safety out of reach.” Moreover, “Our expansion plans are locking in climate failure”.


ECONOMIC THREAT # 1: Three major studies have called for an immediate and rapid reduction of CO2 emissions: Oil Change International’s Climate on the Line; International Energy Agency’s newest 2°C Scenario; and Dr. James Hansen’s Young People’s Burden. The remedial action demanded will severely impede Trudeau’s call for economic growth driven by new global trade deals along with pipeline and LNG expansion.

ECONOMIC THREAT # 2: A new report by Carbon Tracker and Grantham Institute (UK) — Expect the Unexpected: The Disruptive Power of Low-carbon Technology – foresees an economic beating for carbon-dependent economies like Canada’s propelled by the plunge in the costs of electric vehicles and solar technology. Saxifrage echoes the warning to “investors, industries and nations who are betting on carbon markets to plan for disruptive declines in the near future.”


FACT: Deafening silence from our political leaders speaks so loudly Canadians can safely infer a resounding “NO” to that question.


Saxifrage wraps up his piece this way: “Staying silent while leading Canadians into potential climate failure and/or economic failure is unacceptable.”


Barry Saxifrage lives with his wife, Carrie, on Cortes Island, B.C. Visit his chart-rich website, Visual Carbon, at

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