rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Keeping Canada's tar sands treasure buried

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

195 countries, including Canada, have formally agreed that we need to limit the Earth's temperature rise over pre-industrial levels to two degrees. It's uncontroversial. Because going much beyond a two degree increase would be "incompatible with an organized global community" in the words of one of the U.K.'s top climate scientists. And if you’re not sure what that would look like, imagine the movie Mad Max but replace Mel Gibson’s character with a pile of hot dirt.

To have a decent chance of staying below two degrees, the world can only burn around a thousand more gigatonnes of CO2. But current fossil fuel reserves in the ground are about 3000 gigatonnes. If we burn all that it would be beyond Mad Max. It would be like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark when those guys' faces melt off, but realistic and not suddenly like Wallace & Gromit attempting horror.

Companies are spending billions searching for more fossil fuel reserves, and we literally can't burn the stuff we've already found. And I don't mean literally in a "literally zillions" kind of way. We cannot physically do it and hope for a Mentally Sound Max future.

A new study this month in Nature made headlines by restating these numbers, but it went further to say specifically which reserves make the most sense to leave unburned. For Canada it means leaving 71 per cent of natural gas, 97 per cent of coal, and 99 per cent of oil sands in the ground.

And like a patient being told they have six months to live, we can expect the Canadian oil and gas sector to react with denial, and then to publicly challenge the credibility of the doctor, and then pay another doctor to give a better diagnosis. You know, the things terminally ill patients normally do. The metaphor works.   

Fossil fuel companies will do everything in their power to get their reserves above ground, because their stock prices depend on it. If everyone agreed with the conclusions of this Nature paper, the value of fossil fuel companies would crash.

So by investing in their stocks, you're effectively placing a bet on how long they can fool people. And while companies have fooled us into buying a lot of stupid crap, from Snuggies to two-person Snuggies to camouflage Snuggies, a lot more is at stake this time than just our dignity. 

This video originally appeared on The Toronto Star.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.