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Savage Irony: Alberta Wildfires in Tar Sands Town Tied to Global Warming

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

May 9, 2016 9:12:10 AM

The inferno roaring around the town of Fort McMurray, Alberta,has called attention to the dire impacts we can expect if fossil fuel projects proceed as planned.Alberta-Wildfire-Green-Builder-Wikimedia.jpgPhoto: Wikimedia Commons

ENVIRONMENTALIST BILL MCKIBBEN, a vocal opponent of the proposed XL Pipeline—originating in the Tar Sands of Canada—has likened the extraction of those dirty fuels to a death blow for the planet, and he's not alone. The major concern is the release of buried methane in the extraction process, but that's just one straw on the climate change camel's back. There's also the burning of the extracted oil, the clearing and burning of forests and so on.

You might not have caught this fact from the shallow coverage of the wildfires raging in Alberta, but Fort McMurray is ground zero for the fossil fuel industry's tar sands operations. Last week, Scientific American released an analysis of the fires, noting that:

"The wildfire is the latest in a lengthening lineage of early wildfires in the northern reaches of the globe that are indicative of a changing climate. As the planet continues to warm, these types of fires will likely only become more common and intense as spring snowpack disappears and temperatures warm."

Not to downplay the suffering of the tens of thousands of people affected by the fires, but all of the scientific evidence suggests that continuing to develop the Tar Sands will have exponential negative effects both in Canada and globally. For example, there's a huge amount of flammable peat in the region, which could catch fire and add to the airborne pollutants, burning and smoldering for months.

"Boreal forests contain nearly 30 percent of all the world’s carbon stored on land. As they light up, they send that carbon into the atmosphere where it warms the globe. Intense wildfires are already turning some forests into carbon polluters in certain years, creating a feedback cycle that drives temperatures higher and raises fire risks even further."

Dire Indicators

New records for global temperature continue to be broken. Not only did we pass the 400 ppm threshhold for CO2 in the atmosphere this year, Mauna Loa Observatory recently measured the level at 409 ppm, the highest level in 15 million years. And it's still rising.

In addition, Arctic Ice is melting at a rate that was not expected until about 2070. According to Counterpunch.org:

‘Arctic Sea Ice is Falling off a Cliff and it May Not Survive The Summer‘ is a summary of the findings from temperature readings and sea ice conditions in the Arctic region. It is published on Roberts Scribbler on May 2, 2016.

The article reads: “Back in the first decade of the 21st Century, the mainstream scientific view was that Arctic sea ice would be about in the range that it is today by around 2070 or 2080. And that we wouldn’t be contemplating the possibility of zero or near zero sea ice until the end of this Century. But the amazing ability of an unconscionable fossil fuel emission to rapidly transform our world for the worst appears now to outweigh that cautious science…”

It's time to wind down the fossil fuel industry, before it's too late. --M. Power, Editor

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