Cheap attack on responsible Canadian resources a black eye for Greenpeace UK

Greenpeace UK is known for its outrageous stunts to capture media attention, but by lying about the Canadian oil sands it is not only misleading Britons – the group is harming global climate progress.

This week Greenpeace UK erected a mock oil pipeline in front of London's Canada House, claiming the oil sands would "use over 15% of the world's entire carbon budget."

The exploit was meant to take advantage of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's presence in the British capital for a Commonwealth leaders' conference. Media stunts are stock in trade for Greenpeace, but in recent years it has departed from the honourable fact-based tradition that characterized its founding years in Vancouver.

Attacks on Canadian management of the boreal forest led to growing realization that even Greenpeace doesn't believe its own propaganda these days. Their vandalization of an ancient monument in Peru underscored the extent to which the organization is willing to go to gain media attention. 

Even though Greenpeace has sacrificed whatever credibility it once had on environmental issues, the London stunt still demands factual response.

There is no scenario in which the oil sands could ever use 15 per cent of "the world's entire carbon budget."

Canada, even though it is one of a small number of energy exporting nations that helps to create modern living standards for other countries, produces just 1.6 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That is our entire GHG output, and includes not only the oil sands but all other emissions-creating activities. The idea that building a pipeline to the Pacific will create an increase in emissions is simply preposterous.

Twinning the Trans Mountain pipeline, the issue that Greenpeace was protesting, will actually lead to the lowering of Canada's GHG footprint, as explained by economist Trevor Tombe in this Maclean's article, Blocking pipelines is a costly way to lower emissions.
Rather than block pipelines, argues Tombe, we could achieve the same reduction in global emissions, but without the economic costs, by putting a price on carbon.

Another point wrapped up in the Greenpeace argument is that the oil sands are somehow a huge ugly blot on the landscape of northern Canada, and again this claim collapses under even the most cursory examination. This map shows the actual extent of any realistic present and future oil sands production:

post-image.jpgAccording to the Government of Canada:

The lifespan of oil sands mining projects ranges from 40 to 80 years. Oil sands mining started in 1967, and while 1.04 km2, or 0.40 sq. mi., of land disturbed by mining has been certified reclaimed by regulators, reclamation of tailings ponds and most disturbed land is just beginning, and will take many years.

Since 1967, 895 km2 (346 sq. mi.) of land have been affected by mining activity – an area smaller than the area of New York City, London, or the Greater Toronto Area. Once mining is complete in these areas, all of the land will be reclaimed.

Greenpeace UK, for crass publicity reasons, has singled out for its attentions one of the globe's most responsible resource producing nations, and an asset, the oil sands, that is an engine of innovation in aid of climate action. Let's hope that its declining credibility means Greenpeace will find limited success persuading anyone of its false claim.



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