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Oil Sands Threaten Canadian Water Resources PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Monday, 13 November 2006 08:33
Oil Sands Threaten Canadian Water Resources

- Canada is not prepared to manage the impacts of climate change on freshwater resources, according to a new report by the Sage Centre and WWF-Canada. The report released today, ?Implications of a 2?C global temperature rise on Canada?s water resources: Athabasca River and Great Lakes as case studies,? shows that Canada?s seemingly endless freshwater supplies are not only finite, but diminishing with global warming.


Oil and Water don't mix in a warming world

Sage Centre World Wildlife Fund- Canada

November 13, 2006)

Toronto - The report, co-authored by leading climate scientists Dr. James Bruce and Dr. Tina Tin, builds on a growing body of research assessing the risks associated with a global average temperature rise of 2?C (considered by scientists to be the danger threshold for environmental and human systems). Global temperatures have already risen by an average of 0.8?C above pre-industrial times and climate models project reaching 2?C between 2026 and 2060. But averages do not tell the whole story ? different regions in Canada could warm by 2? to 6?C.

Water flows in the Athabasca River have already decreased by about 20 per cent between 1958 and 2003, and water levels in the Great Lakes have been consistently low between 1998 and 2001 during record hot and dry years. These observations are reasonably reliable indications of changes to come: a warmer climate is likely to lead to changes in rainfall patterns, more evaporation from lakes and rivers, and less glacial flow resulting in lower river flows and lake levels.

?Ignoring global warming won?t make it go away,? says Julia Langer, Director, Global Threats Program, WWF-Canada. ?You can?t drink tar sands or coal, yet the fossil fuel industry is getting more protection from the federal and provincial governments than Canada?s precious water.?

Climate and hydrological projections indicate minimum flows in the Athabasca River are likely to diminish by seven to 10 per cent under a 2?C warming. Yet increased water withdrawals are proposed for new tar sands projects that would seriously deplete and threaten downstream ecosystems. Even current allowable tar sands water use, if withdrawn during low water periods, would compromise ecosystem health; without increasing water use efficiency, new development in our warming world will not be sustainable.

Similarly, when average global warming reaches 2?C, the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region could warm by 2.2 ? 4?C. The increased evaporation from the surface of the lakes and tributaries could cause lake levels to fall by 0.1 ? 1.2 metres leading to a decrease of two to 17 per cent in hydropower production. Even recent drops of 0.1 ? 0.5 metres below average on Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior have caused problems for navigation, recreation, power generation and local ecology. Reduced river and lake water volume combined with increased water temperatures will also threaten water quality as pollutants become more concentrated.

?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 hydropower,? says Langer. ?Only decisive action to dramatically cut fossil fuel pollution can stop this tragic irony.?

?Canada urgently needs to better understand the risks and costs of climate change to its economy and quality of life,? says Louise Comeau, Climate Project Director, Sage Centre. ?In the absence of a full analysis, such as the recent report out of the UK by Sir Nicholas Stern, we offer this report as one contribution and call on all governments to move immediately to implement our recommendations.?

The Sage Centre and WWF-Canada are calling on Canada?s governments and industry to reduce greenhouse gases and address global warming impacts in industrial plans. Getting back on track to meet Kyoto Protocol obligations and setting a course to a carbon-neutral economy requires aggressive energy efficiency improvements and controls on rapidly growing emissions from tar sands. Binding agreements are needed to protect water volume and quality, including no new water-taking permits for the tar sands until proven water conservation methods are put in place.

WWF-Canada has launched a national, multi-media public awareness campaign that builds on Canadians? growing concerns about global warming and lack of action to combat it. It encourages people to visit www.saveourclimate.ca to find out how they can help.

For further information or to set up an interview:
Tara Wood, Manager, Public Relations, WWF-Canada, 416-484-7710, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
2 Degrees is Too Much! Implications of Global Warming for Canada?s Water Resources, go to: Six-page colour brochure

Implications of a 2?C global temperature rise on Canada?s water resources: Athabasca River and Great Lakes as case studies, 65 pages, go to: Full technical report

For the most recent information from WWF-Canada regarding climate change go to: wwf.ca/blog

The 12th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change takes place in Nairobi from November 6 ? 17, 2006. Download policy and press materials


Last Updated on Monday, 13 November 2006 08:33

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