Tar Sands Pollution In Canada Is 6,300% Higher Than The Reported

by | Jan 29, 2024 | Environmental News, Pollution News

Home » Environmental News » Tar Sands Pollution In Canada Is 6,300% Higher Than The Reported

In a startling revelation, a recent study published in the prestigious journal Science has uncovered that carbon emissions from tar sands pollution in Canada, particularly in the Athabasca region of Alberta, are being dramatically underreported, with actual figures soaring to 1,900 to 6,300 per cent higher than industry claims. This research, conducted by a collaborative team from Yale University and Environment and Climate Change Canada, highlights a critical oversight in the traditional methods for calculating pollution levels from one of the country’s most significant industrial operations.

The Athabasca oil sands, a hub for producing around three million barrels of crude bitumen daily, have been under scrutiny due to their environmental impact. Bitumen, a highly viscous oil form, necessitates extensive processing and has been a point of contention for environmental advocates. The study’s findings point to a gross underestimation of emissions, with reported rates being 20 to 64 times lower than the actual emissions measured by the researchers through aircraft-based observations. This significant discrepancy highlights the urgent need to reevaluate the approach to measuring tar sands pollution in Canada, ensuring a more accurate representation of its environmental impact.

This discrepancy raises severe concerns about the current practices for monitoring and reporting oil sand industry emissions. The research indicates that a narrow focus on a limited range of organic carbon compounds has significantly underrepresented the true environmental impact. Notably, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), intermediate-volatility organic compounds (IVOCs), and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) have been largely overlooked in existing measurement approaches.

Tar sands pollution in Canada

The implications of these findings are far-reaching, not only for the environment but also for public health and climate policy. The underreporting of emissions hampers efforts to fully understand and mitigate the air quality and broader environmental impacts of oil sand operations. Moreover, the lack of comprehensive data on pollutants, including potentially hazardous and reactive compounds, poses challenges for developing effective science-based policies to address the environmental footprint of the oil and gas sector, which remains Canada’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

As of now, both Environment and Climate Change Canada and Natural Resources Canada have yet to respond to these findings. This silence underscores the urgent need to reassess how emissions are measured and reported in the oil sands industry. The study’s authors emphasize the necessity for “complete coverage” of all pollutants produced by the sector to ensure that policies are informed by the most accurate and comprehensive data available.

The revelation of such significant underreporting in Canada’s oil sands emissions is a wake-up call for the industry and regulatory bodies. It highlights the critical need for more stringent monitoring and reporting practices to ensure that oil sand operations’ environmental and health impacts are fully understood and addressed. The integrity of environmental reporting is paramount in the collective effort to reduce emissions and safeguard our planet for future generations.

Also Read: Colombia’s Human Rights Ombudsman Calls For Urgent Action To Prevent Wildfires


  • Sarah Tancredi

    Sarah Tancredi is an experienced journalist and news reporter specializing in environmental and climate crisis issues. With a deep passion for the planet and a commitment to raising awareness about pressing environmental challenges, Sarah has dedicated her career to informing the public and promoting sustainable solutions. She strives to inspire individuals, communities, and policymakers to take action to safeguard our planet for future generations.

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