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Why Scientists Are in Alarm Mode Over the Keystone XL Pipeline

"Environmental science gets politicized because it has economic implications," says a leading scientist.

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The area of boreal forest to be razed as part of tar sands extraction is small. So far, about 150 square miles of Canada’s two million square miles of boreal forest have been denuded for tar sands operations. If projected GHG emissions from land-use change were available, they would most likely be a fraction of the total. However, fractions add up and the exclusion of that data in final, official reports does say something about an approach to calculation that puts human activity at the top while neglecting to weigh long-term environmental outcomes.

Woodwell cautions it is time to consider environment and economy as mutually dependent: “We’re at a stage we can’t afford to lose any more forests in the world. The building up of carbon, year after the year, is the problem. We're pulling climate out from under all life including civilization, and the consequences of that are devastating."

Laray Polk is a Dallas-based writer. She is co-author of a forthcoming book, Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe (Seven Stories Press, 2013).

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