Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Gift That Keeps On Giving: Alberta's Tar Sands

Yesterday the CBC reported CNRL's Horizon oilsands project near Fort McKay, Alta. and the possible environmental problems that a tailings pond which has containing berms on only three of its sides could cause the local environment. The reports are that a toxic sludge is flowing into the muskeg from an uncontained western edge. The western edge of the pond uses a rise in elevation and clay beneath the surface to prevent overflow, an arrangement approved by Alberta's Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB). As there are no physical barriers to keep wildlife away local aboriginals are concerned that the animals they traditionally hunt and trap are drinking water from the pond, which could potentially put toxins into the food chain.

There was disagreement from CNRL and a government of Alberta apologist for big oil, Minister of the Environment Rob Renner who claimed the CBC pictures "...fail to show the gradual slope of the land, which creates a natural barrier to contain the tailings." Hopefully there's some truth in what he says and there won't be yet another oil sands related environmental tragedy. Environment Canada enforcement officers have been sent to inspect the tailings pond Tuesday by federal Environment Minister John Baird and we'll have a better idea about the wisdom of planning a tailings dump with berms on only three of four sides.
CBC News shot video of the tailings pond and screened it for the world-renowned water expert and ecologist from the University of Alberta, David Schindler. "This is such a big area," Schindler said as he watched the video. "Some of those chemicals have to be seeping into groundwater and Environment Canada should step in."


The land beneath the forest floor is made of clay, which is believed to be a natural sealant. But Schindler says clay isn't completely reliable and engineering tests often don't account for holes created by tree roots or burrowing rodents.
Over at Alternet.org the tar sands project along with shale oil in Alberta, the Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains was included in a list of 5 mining projects that could devastate the entire planet.

And one more story of note, since the public is split about 50-50 on whether or not global warming is occurring but ninety-seven percent of top scientists are in agreement, they've decided to take action and be more pro-active and speak out about climate change and its' dangers.
 

Canadian In Name Only

Dig this, if your thinking of flying south(over the land mass known as the United States) for Christmas be prepared to have your identity probed by Uncle Sam.  Even if your feet never touch down on said turf it don't matter, Uncle Sam gotta know and the Conservatives just made it legal for them to do it. Saying they have a right to the information. Our rights don't seem to matter. Click here for the full sad, disgusting tidbit of information.




The worst kept secret was made official with the details of the extended Afghan mission being made public.

This this could only happen in Florida, well maybe 49 other states as well. It seems a Florida car dealership is offering a voucher for a free AK-47 with every purchase.



Looks like there was no winner for the t-shirt. Better luck next time, the song was Billy Bragg's Think Again.

Hard Ball Politics Or Don't Drink The Brown (Radioactive) Tea

Looks like we'll be finding out the details of the "non-combat" role the army will be doing in Afghanistan on Tuesday. According to the CBC there will be 950 military personal helping out  until the 2014 (if they don't extent the mission again) or when the cows come home, or the Leafs win the Stanley Cup which ever comes first.

With the release of pro-democracy leader Aung Sung Suu Kyi (pronounced souki like the Montreal Expos first mascot) looks like things are getting touchy between the Burmese military and Karen rebels. The two groups seem to be on a collision course since the elections held earlier this month. Burmese rulers cancelled voting in more than  3,000 villages, denying 1.5 million people the opportunity to vote.

Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest on Saturday and now walks a tightrope between speaking her mind and the fear of the consequences, "I'm not scared. I know that there is always a possibility. Because they have done that in the past, they might do it again," she said. "My attitude is that I will do as much as I can while I am free and if I am re-arrested I'll do as much as I can under arrest."



The United States and its NATO allies are finishing up the details on setting up a missile defence shield over Europe. Going old school, build up a wall, build up a wall! (not counting the ones along the Mexican or Israeli borders) The plan will be discussed during a NATO summit being held in Lisbon over the weekend. Speaking of NATO they certainly have a liking for irony, during the summit they plan on asking Russia to take a larger role in Afghanistan. Their hoping to get 20 transport helicopters to provide training to Afghan pilots. (Seeing a Russian helicopter flying over Afghanistan is sure to bring back some fond memories, those were some  good times. The Taliban died fighting on our side you know. YOU CAN WIN A NMPCANADA T-SHIRT IF YOUR THE FIRST  TO GUESS WHAT SONG I PARAPHRASED THE LAST SENTENCE FROM) 

Speaking of Russia I was wondering if Mr. Putin has a video or book on playing hard ball politics. Iggy could maybe borrow it from the library. 

Have a great day. 





Environmentally Friendly Blogging Bad News

There's no upside to being right about the state of global warming whilst the deniers are having their way impeding action and legislation of any and all kinds. Yesterday the NYT's got around to covering one of the stories related to the consequences of global warming, of which there are many, that I've been talking about on my radio show for a couple of years and blogging about these last 8 or so months. They should be so proud! The thing is the stories and the peer reviewed science has been out there for all to see. It's no secret and it's the only way I could have known about it as I am neither a scientist nor have I played one on TV. Don't laugh, cable TV news panels are filled with such people.

 The NYT's story is about the threat of rising sea levels as ice and glaciers continue to melt the world over:
As a result of recent calculations that take the changes into account, many scientists now say that sea level is likely to rise perhaps three feet by 2100 — an increase that, should it come to pass, would pose a threat to coastal regions the world over.



And the calculations suggest that the rise could conceivably exceed six feet, which would put thousands of square miles of the American coastline under water and would probably displace tens of millions of people in Asia.
It rankles that they still make room for the deniers in their article even though none of their arguments are supported by science. It's hard not to be sickened by such pandering. There is peer-reviewed science and then there are a bunch of assholes and shills braying at shadows. Here's one such caveat: Global warming skeptics, on the other hand, contend that any changes occurring in the ice sheets are probably due to natural climate variability, not to greenhouse gases released by humans. Seriously, who cares what they have to say? They are either working on behalf of the fossil fuel industries or they are ignorant. As far as scientists are concerned, there is no debate. And you'd think that the New York bloody Times could get around to mentioning the amounts of greenhouse gasses being spewed annually amounts to 30 billion tons of CO2. In what universe could such amounts have no effect?

As for those consequences I mentioned? Joe Romm over at Climate Progress has an unhappy list that begins with the science related to global warming being responsible for the 40% decline in the ocean's phytoplankton which are the foundation of the vital marine food web which produces oxygen and serves as a sink for carbon dioxide. This list also includes oceans acidifying at rates ten times faster than 55 million years ago when there was a mass marine extinction event, vast amounts of methane being released from what used to be the permafrost in the cryospheres in Canada and Russia which is a heat-trapping gas 25 times more potent than CO2. Of course all the underlying links that support his arguments are peer-reviewed science from unimpeachable sources that includes Nature, Science, the Royal Society, Nature Geoscience, Met Office and the National Acedemy of Sciences. There's very little room for doubt here and the news is positively devastating.

Moving on to a quick hitter, Science Daily is reporting on a study from University of California, Davis that predicts that at the current pace of research and development, global oil will run out 90 years before replacement technologies are ready. We're not exactly gifted with foresight it seems.