Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Academics Call for Oilsands Moratorium, U.S.-Canada Carbon Co-Operation

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Academics Call for Oilsands Moratorium, U.S.-Canada Carbon Co-Operation

Article excerpt

Academics call for oilsands moratorium

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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. …

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