Canadian emissions and unconventional oil production  exceed the 2°C global warming scenario

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Alain Mignault


Canada could highly impact the climate, as it possesses the world’s third largest resources of unconventional oil. This paper evaluates in three ways whether Canada is respecting a scenario of fossil fuel production and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions limiting warming to 2.0 °C by 2100. Firstly, McGlade and Ekins (2015) proposed a model providing production budgets for each fossil fuel producing country. Data show that Canada has extracted more unconventional oil than allocated for the entire century. Secondly, global GHG emissions from the Canadian fossil fuel industry were computed using a life-cycle analysis. Emissions increased by 32% from 2011 to 2019, although dropping 4.9% in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Results also show that an increase of 1% in Canadian fossil fuel industry emissions cancels out at the global level a decrease of 2.1% in national emissions. Thirdly, three models providing a national carbon budget for Canada were compared to annual emissions. Emissions were higher than the targets set by these models. In conclusion, Canadian GHG emissions and unconventional oil production exceeded the amounts allowed by the 2°C scenario during the 2011-2020 period. Policies to reduce exports of fossil fuels and mitigate national emissions are discussed.



Environmental Sciences, Natural Resources Management and Policy, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Canada, Emissions, Fossil fuels, GHG


Published: 2021-06-01 08:01

Last Updated: 2021-06-01 10:43


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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