Wed, Nov 15, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Global warming threatens Canadian energy sources

VICIOUS CIRCLE Changes in rainfall patterns, a higher evaporation rate and less glacier runoff would lead to cuts in power provided by dams and oil-bearing sand


A hike in temperatures projected across Canada due to rising global greenhouse gas emissions jeopardizes its massive hydro power production and booming oil sands sector, a study that was released on Monday said.

The report by the Sage Center and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) examined the impact of a small rise in temperatures on the Athabasca River, which feeds Canada's Alberta oil sands industry, and on its Great Lakes region, where vast hydro-electric power is generated for the province of Ontario and exported to the northeastern US.

Global temperatures have already risen by about 0.8oC in the past century and are expected to rise by 2oC between 2026 and 2060.

Different regions in Canada could warm by up to 6oC.

This could lead to changes in rainfall patterns, more evaporation from lakes and rivers and less glacial flow resulting in lower river flows and lake levels, the WWF said in a statement.

Ontario would be forced to cut hydro power generation by 2 percent to 17 percent and Alberta would have to curtail new oil sands projects, which use 2.0 to 4.5 barrels of water and large amounts of energy to produce one barrel of oil.

"Canada's fastest growing source of global warming pollution -- the Alberta tar sands -- is boiling off the very water supplies it needs, and in Ontario, burning coal for electricity is undermining access to clean hydro power," Julia Langer, director of WWF's global threats program, said in a statement.

"Only decisive action to dramatically cut fossil fuel pollution can stop this tragic irony," she said.

The WWF called for cuts to carbon gases emitted mainly by burning oil, gas and coal that are driving perilous climate change, particularly from Alberta oil sands production, and no new water-taking permits for energy companies.

Canada had agreed under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 6.0 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, but a recent government environmental audit found emissions had instead increased by 26.6 percent.

Carbon emissions from larger-scale oil sands extraction operations could double by 2015, the government's environmental auditor Johanne Gelinas said.

Environment Minister Rona Ambrose introduced a bill last month to reduce Canada's carbon emissions by 45 percent to 65 percent by 2050, based on 2003 emissions. But it was widely panned for allowing emissions to continue to rise until 2020.

At an estimated 179 billion barrels, Canada's oil sands rank second behind Saudi Arabia's in petroleum reserves.

Since 2000, skyrocketing crude prices and improved extraction technology have persuaded foreign companies to invest billions of dollars in projects.

Oil sands output is expected to triple over the next decade to 3.5 million barrels of oil per day, the Organization for Economic Coop-eration and Development said in its annual report in June.

However, the WWF said water flows in the Athabasca River, down 20 percent since 1958, could diminish by another seven to 10 percent if local temperatures continue to rise.

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