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February 20, 2012

Coal is the true Greenhouse Gas Killer

ENVIRONMENT - Alberta's tar pits (aka the oil sands) isn't likely to make much difference as far as global warming and climate change is concerned, says Andrew Weaver, one of the world’s top climate change scientists.

Weaver has calculated that emissions from from burning coal to make electricity is the real threat to the planet's ecosystem.

“I was surprised by the results of our analysis,” says Andrew Weaver, a University of Victoria climate change specialist, who has been a lead author on two reports from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Weaver and colleague Neil Stewart analyzed how burning all global stocks of coal, oil and natural gas would affect temperatures. Their analysis includes unconventional gas, such as undersea methane hydrates and shale gas produced by fracking, as well as unconventional sources including the Canadian tar sands.

Weaver and Stewart found that if all the hydrocarbons in the tar sands were mined and consumed, the carbon dioxide released would raise global temperatures by about 0.36 Celsius.

When only commercially viable tar sands deposits are considered, the temperature increase is only 0.03 Celsius. So the Canadian tar sands is just a drop in the proverbial bucket (although it is still an ecological hazard for the petrochemicals being spilled into the water supply and giving cancer to residents who drink the local water, to say nothing of the damage caused to plants and animals in the region).

In contrast, burning all the globe’s vast coal deposits would create a 15 Celsius increase in temperature. Burning all the abundant natural gas would warm the planet by 3.1 degrees.

Governments around the world have agreed to try to keep global warming to two degrees, although little action is currently be done to stop the changes.

“The conventional and unconventional oil is not the problem with global warming,” says Weaver. “The problem is coal and unconventional natural gas.”

The increased dependence on coal for the purpose of making electricity is what governments should really worry about.

Burning all the oil in the world would raise temperatures by 0.9 Celsius.

The end message is that countries need to start shutting down coal burners and switch to nuclear, solar, wind and geothermal energy.

It is estimated it would only take 5 large geothermal facilities to produce all the energy Canada needs, but the Canadian government is refusing to even build 1 geothermal facility despite the success of Canadian geothermal companies operating overseas.

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