Canada's oil sands means "game over" for planet, warns NASA scientist James Hansen

If Canada continues to exploit Alberta's tar sands, it will be "game over",  NASA scientist James Hansen warned in an opinion piece in The New York Times on Friday. 

"Global warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening. That is why I was so troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves 'regardless of what we do.'" Hansen wrote. 

"If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate."

Hansen outlined the environmental risks of developing Canada’s tar sands reserves, which contain double the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in history. (Earlier this year, VO climate writer Barry Saxifrage published an info-graphic on Canadian tar sands that was sent by the National  Resource Defense Council to every US Senator and Representative in March).   

"If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now," Hansen wrote. 

He asserted that emissions would need to be reduced dramatically in order to avoid the "apocalyptic" future of an inhabitable planet with sea levels destroyinng coastal cities and global temperatures rising to the point of killing off large portions of the earth's species.  

Although Congress did reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline (which would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to Texas) in January, Hansen urged US President Obama to take stronger action to prevent tar sands oil from accessing Gulf Coast refining in order to prevent further environmental deterioration. 

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