Former NASA head says mining oil sands will make climate change 'unsolvable'

Posted: May 24, 2013

Written by

Damian Carrington, London Guardian/ClimateWire
Tar sands

While visiting London, climate scientist James Hansen continued his efforts against the exploitation of Alberta's oil sands, saying that "oil from tar sands makes sense only for a small number of people who are making a lot of money from that product."

Last month, Hansen left his position at NASA to concentrate on raising awareness about climate change. In an interview with the London Guardian, the scientist said, "We are getting close to the dangerous level of carbon in the atmosphere, and if we add on to that unconventional fossil fuels, which have a tremendous amount of carbon, then the climate problem becomes unsolvable."

Joe Oliver, Canada's minister of natural resources, also visited London recently to lobby against the European Union's intention to penalize oil sources with high carbon footprints, such as Canada's oil sands -- removing oil from the sands produces four times the emissions per barrel of other oil sources. Oliver has called the European Union's plan "discriminatory to oil sands and not based on scientific facts."

But Hansen accused Canada's leaders of "acting as salesmen for those people who will gain from the profits of that industry."

"The thing we are facing overall is that the fossil fuel industry has so much money that they are buying off governments," he said. "Our democracies are seriously handicapped by the money that is driving decisions in Washington and other capitals."

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