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Climate Crisis - General

Climate Crisis in Canada: The Effects of Our Carbon Footprint

Canadians have one of the highest per-capita rates of carbon emissions in the world. This is because we have:

  • A resource-intensive economy
  • Large vehicles driven long distances
  • Large houses in a cold climate
  • High levels of material consumption
  • Frequent plane travel

In Canada, our inability to cut carbon emissions has given us the worst record of carbon emissions growth in the industrialized world. Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto Accord took the form of a pledge to reduce our carbon emissions by the year 2012 to a level 6% below that of our emissions in 1990.

By 2013 our emissions were 25% higher than our 2012 Kyoto target, making our record the second-worst of the Kyoto Accord's 58 signatories, just ahead of the last place: Saudi Arabia.

Carbon Emissions Explained

Where is the growth in carbon emissions in Canada coming from?

The two main drivers are mass immigration and the Alberta oil sands. (Balanced immigration would maintain our population at a stable level. Mass immigration is being used to increase our population by over 1 Toronto every decade)

Doubling our population will mean our per capita GHG emissions will have to be cut by 50% just to stand still. Clearly, seeking a reduction in GHG emissions while continuing to increase our population is not a viable plan.

In 2021 the oil sands account for ~ 15% (100 mt) of total carbon emissions in Canada (720 mt) compared to the 35% increase in population (10 million people) for which immigration is largely responsible since 1990.

Canada is in a climate crisis. What’s next?

Oil sands production will plateau at some level. Given the vagaries of a rapidly growing world economy, countered by increasingly louder calls to leave the dirtiest oil in the ground, oil sands production could be double that of today or a quarter of what it is today.

In 2021, with many car companies announcing their exit from internal combustion engine based vehicles within the next 10 years, oil sands future production is cloudy. But whatever happens with the oil sands, rapid population growth will impact the climate crisis in Canada by delivering more environmental damage over the long run.

The effects of our carbon footprint are undeniable. In a finite world with an environment in decline, that plan must be challenged and reversed. Send a link to your friends and include a cartoon and a graph. Get the word out and start asking questions of your media sources and your elected representatives. Demand answers!


Sustainable change starts with you!

Here’s how you can affect change.

Learn how you can drive change through the media and your politicians as well as your own actions here.

Share this article on your social media accounts to spread awareness.


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Climate Crisis - Advanced

Our Carbon Footprint and Its Long-Term Effects

Human-generated carbon emissions are a major driver of climate change and are the focus of intense concern around the world. The importance of our carbon footprint cannot be understated.

In the past, Canada has enjoyed a reputation in the world as an active nice guy working towards the goals of human betterment and world peace from a base of a just and progressive society.

But Canada's status is undergoing a massive downgrade. We are pursuing a policy of rapid growth and reckless exploitation of our natural resources. In Canada, our carbon emissions growth over the 1990 to 2012 time period was second worst of 58 Kyoto signatories. Whereas our Kyoto commitment was to reduce emissions to 560 mega tonnes - 6% under the 1990 levels - by 2012, they actually increased by 19%, a 25% miss of the target.

A clean miss of that magnitude is almost impossible to imagine, but even more shocking is the complete lack of interest media corporations have in investigating the reasons for this epic failure, or in examining the damaging effects of our carbon footprint.

Our abysmal carbon emissions record in Canada is well known in scientific and technocrat circles. William Ruddiman author of Plows, Plagues & Petroleum, jokingly referred to Canada's carbon track record by saying, “and you are the new bad boys”. Unfortunately, the effects of our carbon footprint are no longer a laughing matter. In a far less affable critique, Yvo de Boer, the head of the UN's climate change agency, blasted Canada's double speak. In 2008, Al Gore ripped Canada's carbon performance as a pure fraud.

What produces carbon emissions?

Where is the growth in carbon emissions in Canada coming from?

The two main drivers of our carbon footprint in Canada are mass immigration and the Alberta oil sands. In the period 1990 - 2012 the oil sands are a rapidly growing but still minor (5%) contributor of national emissions compared to the 20% increase in population (6 million people) for which immigration is largely responsible. To this point in 2012, immigration was responsible for twice as much of our Kyoto overshoot than the oil sands.

Carbon footprint facts

Currently, in 2021, the per capita emissions of Canadians is 18.5 tonnes with the national total being ~ 700 mega tonnes. An extra 10 million people produces an additional ~180 mega tonnes (180 mt) of emissions. These kinds of facts about our carbon footprint can’t be ignored.

Note that in a rare climate success, successive Ontario Liberal governments converted the province's electrical generating plants from coal to natural gas, and brought a significant amount of wind and solar capacity on-line. This resulted in GHG emissions reductions of more than 30mt. The current Ontario government seems intent on dismantling this Green Strategy.

If the growth lobby is successful in maintaining Canada’s rapid population growth policy through mass immigration, Canada will have an additional 70 million people by the turn of the century. This means that carbon emissions in Canada will be vastly higher, not drastically lower as the planet so desperately needs.

With scores of square kilometers of open pit mines and tailing ponds, the oil sands has a greater visual impact than the suburbs, highways, offices and malls spawned by the immigrant influx.

But despite appearances, urban sprawl over our best farmland is more of an environmental juggernaut and has more far-reaching effects in terms of our carbon footprint than the poster boy of environmental destruction, the oil sands. Urban structures require a great deal of resources and energy to build and a great deal of energy to run as long as they are standing. In Canada, carbon emissions from these population growth sources are both greater in magnitude and harder to minimize due to their multiplicity than those of the oil sands.

No conserver society can counter the effects of continued population growth, but mass immigration and ever higher consumption are the core of Canada's simple growth-forever mantra. Climate crisis in Canada is fueled by this mindset.

Growth forever, whether in the form of population, per capita consumption increases or increased resource exploitation is unable to deliver the GHG emissions reductions that are critical to live up to our international commitments to fight extreme climate change.

To counter carbon emissions in Canada, we had all expected that an aggressive policy of rebuilding and expanding Canada’s forests would pull a great deal of carbon out of the atmosphere and fix it in our soils and trees, but that trend is not turning out as hoped. Given the complexities of climate change, which include increased forest fires and foreign species bug infestations, Canada’s forest emissions have actually shifted to positive (a bad thing). That means we will have to work all the harder on reducing our man-made carbon emissions in Canada.

Note for reference that in 2021, annual oil sands emissions are around the 100mt level.

We have a climate crisis because we have an integrity crisis. Despite speeches of concern by various politicians, Canada has no strategy to map out a path to carbon neutrality, much less zero carbon emissions. Our governments have not built any models – the first step – which will enable the development of a rational strategy to achieve sustainability and balance the existing effects of our carbon footprint. Transparent and expert models will produce embarrassing issues for the powerful growth lobby. Not having them is negligent.


Instead, the plan is business-as-usual with more development of the oil sands and continually higher levels of immigration which are, even now, 7 times in excess of balanced levels. The importance of our carbon footprint goes largely overlooked. The environmental damage of high oil sands production levels and adding an additional 70 million people over the next 80 years (tripling our current population) will completely overwhelm any green initiatives we attempt to implement, failing to counter the effects of our increasing carbon footprint. These two policies assure that Canada will continue to break any promises it makes regarding climate responsibility.

Canada was able to abandon its addiction to growth in the face of a clear biophysical threat, the Covid-19 pandemic. In Canada, we need to show the same resolve and adopt the same kind of science-based policies to deal with the much bigger threat of the climate crisis.

Covid-19 is a rehearsal. Let’s apply what we’ve learned from it.


Sustainable change starts with you!

Here’s how you can affect change.

Learn how you can drive change through the media and your politicians as well as your own actions here.

Share this article on your social media accounts to spread awareness.


Learn More:

Climate Crisis - Reference

Subject MatterSource

Historical aspects of global warming

To help people who want to know more about the historical aspects of global warming and climate change
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CO2 Now

Norway abandons carbon capture project
Read more
BBC News

Understanding Carbon emissions, climate change and the Kyoto Agreement
Read more
Kyoto Protocol

CO2 time series 1990-2011

CO2 time series 1990-2011 per capita for world countries
Read More
Joint Research Centre

International Panel on Climate Change website
Read more
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Flood maps

Flood maps
Read More

International Emissions data

International Emissions data by country and source
Read More

Climate Challenge

Did Climate Challenge the Creativity of Early Homo sapiens?
Read More

When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math.
Read more
Rolling Stone Politics

A new study on global warming pinpoints the probable dates for when cities and ecosystems around the world will regularly experience hotter environments the likes of which they have never seen before.
Read more
CBC News
Motion Graph: Carbon Emmissions vs CCCno2%

Our Interactive Graphs and Charts are only available on larger screensizes as they require more room to view and manipulate the data. Visit this page on a desktop or tablet device.

Impact Index


Immigration Impact

Sources of Canadian Carbon Emission Increase Since 1990
  • Immigration 65%
  • Oil Sands 25%
  • Per Capita Consumption 10%

The expansion of domestic fossil fuel energy consumption is due to the high levels of immigration which has increased the Canadian population by over 5 million since the Kyoto base year of 1990.  The oil sands which is the focus of most concern is a significantly smaller contributor to Canada’s overall carbon emissions growth. Note that switching from coal to natural gas electric power generation is the biggest source of carbon emissions reduction.  Loss of manufacturing capacity is another.

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