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Tar sands oil, boreal forest

The one concrete measure that came out of President Obama’s Thursday meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a Canada-U.S. decision to look into carbon capture as a solution to global warming, the Toronto Star reports.

Star commentator Thomas Walkom takes this as a sign of “Obama’s willingness to sign on to Harper’s search (much criticized by Canadian environmentalists) for a miraculous new technology that would allow oil refineries and coal plants to keep polluting and then permanently store the resultant carbon emissions underground.”  But Obama’s been a “clean coal” advocate at least since running for the U.S. Senate.

Pioneering climate scientist James Hansen says tar sands development (see previous post) “constitutes one of our planet’s greatest threats” — not just because of dramatically higher carbon emissions, but also because Canada’s boreal forest is one of the planet’s best carbon-reduction tools.

“This forest plays a key role in the global carbon equation by serving as a major storehouse for terrestrial carbon – indeed, it is believed to store more carbon per hectare than any other ecosystem on Earth. When this pristine forest is strip mined for tar sands development, much of its stored carbon is lost. Canada’s Boreal Forest is also the reservoir for a large fraction of North America’s clean, fresh water, home to some five billion migratory birds, and some of largest remaining populations of caribou, moose, bear and wolves on the planet.”

Writes Hansen: “The U.S. and Canadian governments must agree that the unconventional fossil fuels, tar sands and tar shale, will not be developed. They will thus send a message that their statements recognizing ‘a planet in peril’ are not empty rhetoric.”

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Category: economy, energy, global warming

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