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Why Tar Sands

The tar sands sector spells disaster for both the climate and human rights. With the Paris climate conference calling for the world to work to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees, an immediate halt to all tar sands infrastructure investment and development is urgently needed. 


Extracting, processing, and burning fuel from Alberta oil sands creates about 20% more greenhouse gases than fuels produced from conventionally extracted crude oil. Due to the tar sands’ extra heavy bitumen, the refining process requires more energy and thus generates more emissions.

The global climate crisis is already a human rights crisis, with tens of millions of people around the world facing impacts from hurricanes, drought, wildfires and rising sea levels.

The science is clear. Leading experts have singled out continued tar sands exploitation as “game over for the climate.” Canadian environmental authorities have documented that if left unchecked, greenhouse gas pollution from the Alberta oil sands is expected to increase by 124 percent by 2030. Expanded tar sands oil extraction would also result in significant additional deforestation of of Alberta’s boreal forests. These forests serve as a critical carbon sink, source of water, and habitat for endangered species.

The tar sands sector as a whole violates fundamental human rights. From the tar sands mining, to spills into critical waterways, to the pollution-producing oil refining process, communities along the entire processing route are deeply impacted.

The extraction process is so environmentally hazardous that it has been called “slow industrial genocide” by the Indigenous Environmental Network. Indigenous peoples are experiencing life-or-death threats to their water supply, their food supply, their livelihoods — essentially devastating their way of life. A 2014 study from the University of Manitoba concluded that the high levels of cancer in Fort Chipewyan are “significantly and positively associated” with employment in the tar sands as well as the consumption of traditional foods and locally caught fish.

At a time when the oil and gas supermajors are fleeing tar sands, JPMorgan Chase continues to take a leading role in bankrolling this disastrous sector. It financed two of the three biggest tar sands operators, Cenovus and Canadian Natural Resources, in their acquisitions of billions of new barrels of reserves from ConocoPhillips and Shell.

Photo Below: "Protesters call on JPMorgan Chase to defund tar sands" Credit: Toben Dilworth

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