Emissions from tar sands seriously underestimated

| 5th October 2009
Suncor's Tar Island tailings pond reclamation

Suncor's 'Tar Island' tailings reclamation pond
photo: Global Forest Watch Canada

Governments and companies making no effort to quantify the real climate impacts

Greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands operations are being significantly under-reported according to new research by Global Forest Watch Canada.

The report, 'Bitumen and Biocarbon', says oil companies and governments are not accounting for emissions from deforestation. It says that when boreal forest is destroyed for tar sands development, significant amounts of greenhouse gases are emitted.

'Governments and companies are working hard to downplay the impacts of tar sands operations, but it turns out that they don’t even know the full extent of the problem,' said Christy Ferguson, Greenpeace climate and energy coordinator.

'What’s worse, they’re doing nothing to find out. Denial is not a climate strategy.'

In addition, the report shows that biological carbon stored in living and decaying plants is lost when natural ecosystems are disturbed or destroyed through mining of bitumen and construction of roads, pipelines or facilities.

'Peatlands are one of the world’s most important storehouses of soil carbon. Industrial activity in the tar sands is destroying peatlands, releasing carbon and eliminating a crucial natural mechanism.

'Even if peatlands are reclaimed, the carbon released through industrialisation won’t be replaced for thousands of years,' said Ferguson.

Useful links

Full Report: Bitumen and Biocarbon

See also

More from this author


The Ecologist has a formidable reputation built on fifty years of investigative journalism and compelling commentary from writers across the world. Now, as we face the compound crises of climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse and social injustice, the need for rigorous, trusted and ethical journalism has never been greater. This is the moment to consolidate, connect and rise to meet the challenges of our changing world. The Ecologist is owned and published by the Resurgence Trust. Support The Resurgence Trust from as little as £1. Thank you. Donate now.