The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Academics call for oilsands moratorium, U.S.-Canada carbon co-operation

  • Print
An oilsands facility is seen from a helicopter near Fort McMurray, Alta., Tuesday, July 10, 2012. Canada needs a moratorium on new oilsands projects and pipelines, says a group of Canadian and U.S. academics. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Enlarge Image

An oilsands facility is seen from a helicopter near Fort McMurray, Alta., Tuesday, July 10, 2012. Canada needs a moratorium on new oilsands projects and pipelines, says a group of Canadian and U.S. academics. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Canada needs a moratorium on new oilsands projects and pipelines, says a group of Canadian and U.S. academics.

In a comment article in the prominent science journal Nature, they argue that leaders have to stop considering the industry's development project by project and start thinking about the big picture.

"Governments have allowed corporations to profit from one-off policy decisions," the academics write in the article. "The collective result of these decisions is unnecessarily high social, economic and environmental costs."

Governments have become like a smoker who believes that since the next cigarette isn't likely to kill him it's OK to keep lighting up, said economist Mark Jaccard, one of the eight co-authors, from Simon Fraser University.

"I'm going about it the wrong way if I looked at that individual cigarette. I should have looked at all of the cumulative effects of each of the cigarettes I would have smoked and then I might have made a different decision."

Co-author Thomas Homer-Dixon of the University of Waterloo's Balsillie School of International Affairs said governments need to start putting the pieces together.

"Even the folks who would not agree with us with respect to many of the points we're making would probably agree that the world is changing, that over the next decades there's going to be a move away from carbon-based fuels," he said.

"That's a big job for North America and it shouldn't be approached in piecemeal fashion, with lots of individual decisions that are made in isolation from each other."

Economic and climate models around the world suggest high-carbon fuels such as oilsands-derived crudes can't increase if climate change is to be kept manageable, Jaccard said.

"All of those models show you wouldn't be expanding unconventional oil. As a group at MIT said: 'The niche for the oilsands industry is fairly narrow and mostly involves hoping that climate policy will fail.'"

There's no need to shut the oilsands down — just stop their rapid expansion, Jaccard suggested.

"You don't need to lose jobs in Alberta," he said.

"You may not be able to bring in foreign workers as fast as you were and you may not have inflation as high as you have it and you may not have as much of a boom-and-bust cycle in your economy. But you're not going to see your economy shut down."

The article calls for a price on carbon that would restrict high-emissions projects. It adds that governments need better regulatory tools for studying tradeoffs between development, the environment, social justice and health.

It also calls for a co-operative carbon policy between the United States and Canada.

Homer-Dixon points out carbon price regimes are spreading. China has announced plans for a carbon price by 2015 and the International Energy Agency expects that about one-third of global emissions will be subject to such schemes within a generation.

"Folks don't want to confront the reality here, especially in Alberta, that the world is changing," he said. "These things are proliferating and they're not going away."

Jaccard acknowledges that such policies may not be immediate political winners.

"The more the challenge is global, abstract and distant, the more you're going to need moral leadership."

But Alberta must rise to the challenge, said Homer-Dixon.

"Alberta has done and is doing very well. Just because things are good now and have been in the past doesn't mean that's going to continue indefinitely.

"We need to sit back and take a very close look at what we're doing and think about the longer term in the larger context of the continent. It's not a happy message in some ways for Alberta, but I don't think denial is an option."

The authors of the article also include Wendy Palen, Anne Salomon, Ken Lertzman and Maureen Ryan from Simon Fraser University, Thomas Sisk of Northern Arizona University and Joseph Arvai from the University of Calgary.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Gail Asper says museum honours her father’s vision

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A red squirrel peaks out of the shade in a tree in East Fort Garry, Sunday, September 9, 2012. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A nesting goose sits on the roof of GoodLife Fitness at 143 Nature Way near Kenaston as the morning sun comes up Wednesday morning- See Bryksa’s Goose a Day Photo- Day 07- Web crop-May 09, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think volunteers dragging the Red River is a good idea?

View Results

Ads by Google