U.S. and Canadian oil production pushing planet's climate goals out of reach, says IEA

(Canada's National Observer, 8 Mar 2019) A surge in U.S. and Canadian oil production over the last decade has added the equivalent of “one Russia or one Saudi Arabia” to the markets — pushing the planet farther away from ever getting a grip on the pollution that is driving climate change.

Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, revealed this fact Feb. 26 while discussing what he saw as a “growing disconnect” between the countless scientific studies calling for a decline in heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions — each more urgent than the last — and the fact that pollution continues to rise, hitting a record high last year.

In order to avoid the extreme flooding, drought, heat waves, rainfall, disease outbreaks and other dangers to human health that climate change will provoke, nations must stop burning fossil fuels in sufficient amounts to limit the rise in average surface temperature to below two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

The problem, said Birol, is that there is already no more room to increase the amount of pollution that humans add each year to the atmosphere. All of the cars, trucks, power plants, factories and other facilities that have already been built around the world, he said, will eat up the rest of the planet’s so-called "carbon budget" — an expression used to describe the maximum amount of pollution that could be generated if the planet wants to limit the rise of average global temperatures — by 2045.

Canada has committed to investing billions of dollars over the next several years in clean technology that Birol said can take a big bite out of oil demand. For example, the Trudeau government is investing in a national network of electric-charging stations to help precipitate a flood of electric car sales in the 2020s.

The government is also establishing a nationwide price on pollution and is phasing out emissions from coal-fired power generation through regulations by 2030. It is working to expand an international coalition to follow them as rapidly as possible.

But the government also spent billions of dollars to buy the Trans Mountain oil pipeline and expansion project, and Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi recently announced $1.6 billion in support for the oil and gas sector to expand into new markets. Even Ottawa’s electric-car charging fund is also supporting natural gas refueling stations.

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Canada's National Observer, 8 Mar 2019: U.S. and Canadian oil production pushing planet's climate goals out of reach, says IEA