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Blame Canada

When did Canada start acting like Saudi Arabia when it comes to climate change? As George Monbiot notes in the Guardian this week, the normally good-natured country now has the dubious distinction of being the only country to ratify Kyoto and then formally renege on its commitments. Not only that, but Canada's increasingly trying to obstruct the Copenhagen climate talks. So what's behind this shift? Probably the country's vast tar sands reserves, which have attracted increasing interest since around 2006:

Refining tar sands requires two to three times as much energy as refining crude oil. The companies exploiting them burn enough natural gas to heat six million homes. Alberta's tar sands operation is the world's biggest single industrial source of carbon emissions. By 2020, if the current growth continues, it will produce more greenhouse gases than Ireland or Denmark. Already, thanks in part to the tar mining, Canadians have almost the highest per capita emissions on earth, and the stripping of Alberta has scarcely begun.

Those tar sands could potentially make Canada the second-largest source of oil in the world, after Saudi Arabia—so it wouldn't be surprising if the two countries' views on carbon controls started converging.

 (flickr photo credit: Greenpeace International)