The north of the Canadian province of Alberta is a fairly remote place, without much to offer. That is, of course, apart from the oilsands, loose sands or partially consolidated sandstone that contains an extremely viscous form of petroleum, also known as “bitumen”. Recently, however, over 100 Canadian and American researchers have signed a statement calling on Canada to end the expansion of its oilsands industry, based on scientific evidence. The researchers come from a range of fields, including biologists, physicists, political scientists, geographers, economists, several Order of Canada recipients and even a Nobel Prize winner.
The group of researchers says that it’s requested meetings with federal politicians to discuss the science behind their reasons in favor of a “moratorium” on new oilsands projects. These reasons include concerns about carbon emissions exacerbating climate change, environmental contamination, hampering the shift to clean energy, aboriginal rights and potential effects on international policy. In additions, the researchers have cited evidence that stopping the expansion of oilsands won’t hurt the economy. A co-author of the study, former Simon Fraser University professor Marc Jaccard, insisted that scientists aren’t asking for existing oilsands projects to shut down, they just don’t want new ones to start up.
Last year, there had been a statement published in the scientific journal Nature that also called for a moratorium of expanding the oilsands industry, although it was only signed by eight researchers. However, researchers from many different fields have joined forces to engage in more public debate about the issue. The scientists are urging action now, no matter what the price of the oil. In response, a spokesman of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said that they have their own team of scientists, who are working to make the oil industry sustainable without putting a halt to it altogether. Which solution is correct, however, remains unclear.