James Hansen disses the Tar Sands

James Hansen: Obama’s Canada trip defines our critical carbon moment | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

The tar sands of Canada constitute one of our planet’s greatest threats. They are a double-barrelled threat. First, producing oil from tar sands emits two-to-three times the global warming pollution of conventional oil. But the process also diminishes one of the best carbon-reduction tools on the planet: Canada’s Boreal Forest.

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.

Nothing more to say, except that he does a good job of connecting both the inefficiency of the extraction process, a carbon source, and the destruction of the boreal forest, the removal of a carbon sink. If carbon accounting was in place, the economics would not work. Harper knows this, hence all the aggressive PR to get ahead of the game.

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