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Silence is Deadly





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Dr. James Hansen

The U.S. Department of State seems likely to approve a huge pipeline to carry tar sands oil (about 830,000 barrels per day) to Texas refineries unless sufficient objections are raised.

The scientific community needs to get involved in this fray now. If this project gains approval, it will become exceedingly difficult to control the tar sands monster.

Although there are multiple objections to tar sands development and the pipeline, including destruction of the environment in Canada1 and the likelihood of spills along the pipeline's pathway, such objections, by themselves, are very unlikely to stop the project.

An overwhelming objection is that exploitation of tar sands would make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts. The tar sands are estimated (e.g., see IPCC AR4 WG3 report) to contain at least 400 GtC (equivalent to about 200 ppm CO2).

Easily available reserves of conventional oil and gas are enough to take atmospheric CO2 well above 400 ppm. However, if emissions from coal are phased out over the next few decades and if unconventional fossil fuels are left in the ground, it is conceivable to stabilize climate 2,3.

Phase out of emissions from coal is itself an enormous challenge. However, if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over. There is no practical way to capture the CO2 emitted while burning oil, which is used principally in vehicles. Continued...

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