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David Sassoon's articles

Q&A: Can Canada's Pristine Boreal Forest Be Saved By Conservation?

'What you're really looking at here is cumulative development. In a sense, death by a thousand cuts'

Mar 29, 2011
Map of Canada's boreal forest

The Pew Environment Group released a earlier this month urging protection of the Canadian boreal, the world's largest intact forest and the biggest carbon sink on land.

(Listen to the SolveClimate News podcast episode: Canada's Pristine Forest of Blue: Conservation or Death by 1,000 Cuts)

The study says the "forest of blue," which covers 60 percent of Canada's landmass and contains nearly 200 million acres of surface freshwater, is under threat from oil sands development, mining, logging and hydropower projects, despite efforts to protect large swathes of it. David Sassoon spoke with Steven Kallick, director of the at Pew, who has devoted much of his life to the boreal's conservation.

David Sassoon: What are some of the report's key findings?

Steven Kallick: The most important finding is that this area is the largest intact wetlands complex in the world. It has the most unfrozen surface freshwater of any ecosystem on the planet, and some of the world's largest lakes.

There's no other landscape like it. And the value of this resource goes way beyond the borders of Canada. It has global effects on climate, on carbon sequestration and on migratory wildlife that really make it a global concern.

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Koch Brothers Positioned To Be Big Winners If Keystone XL Pipeline Is Approved

Obama’s bitterest political enemies already import and refine 25 percent of oil sands crude reaching the U.S., and stand to profit from an increased flow

Feb 10, 2011
David and Charles Koch

The Keystone XL pipeline, awaiting a thumbs up or down on a presidential permit, would increase the import of heavy oil from Canada's oil sands to the U.S. by as much as 510,000 barrels a day, if it gets built.

Proponents tout it as a boon to national security that would reduce America's dependence on oil from unfriendly regimes. Opponents say it would magnify an environmental nightmare at great cost and provide only the illusion of national benefit.

What's been left out of the ferocious debate over the pipeline, however, is the prospect that if president Obama allows a permit for the Keystone XL to be granted, he would be handing a big victory and great financial opportunity to Charles and David Koch, his bitterest political enemies and among the most powerful opponents of his clean economy agenda.

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India First to Track Multi-Trillion Dollar Value of Natural World

Hope that other nations will follow suit and also start accounting for "natural wealth," protect it from damage

Oct 20, 2010

India is today expected to become the first country in the world to commit to publishing a new set of accounts which track the nation's plants, animals, water and other "natural wealth" as well as financial measurements such as GDP.

The announcement is due to be made at , and it is hoped that such a move by a major developing economy will prompt other countries to join the initiative.

Work on agreeing common measures, such as the value of ecosystems and their "services" for humans – from relaxation to clean air and fertile soils – will be co-ordinated by the World Bank, which hopes it can sign up 10-12 nations and publish the results by 2015 at the latest.

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Breaking: EPA Rejects 10 Petitions Charging Climate Science is Flawed

EPA’s review finds climate science is credible, compelling, and growing stronger.

Jul 29, 2010

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today denied 10 petitions challenging its 2009 endangerment finding which said that climate change is real, is occurring due to emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities, and threatens human health and the environment.

EPA found no evidence to support the claims of the petitions which assert that a conspiracy invalidates the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program. On the contrary, EPA’s review of the petitions found that climate science is credible, compelling, and growing stronger.

“The endangerment finding is based on years of science from the U.S. and around the world. These petitions -- based as they are on selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy -- provide no evidence to undermine our determination. Excess greenhouse gases are a threat to our health and welfare,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

“Defenders of the status quo will try to slow our efforts to get America running on clean energy. A better solution would be to join the vast majority of the American people who want to see more green jobs, more clean energy innovation and an end to the oil addiction that pollutes our planet and jeopardizes our national security.”

The basic assertions by the petitioners and EPA responses are reprinted below.

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(PHOTOS): Bare Hands Clean-Up of a Horrible Oil Spill

It is hard to look at the pictures in the following photo essay. They ask hard questions and provide no answers. Factually, they document how some people responded to a 400,000 gallon oil spill that's grown into a slick covering more than 150 square miles.

These pictures are not from the oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The Kalamazoo spill just happened two days ago and at is more than twice the size of the one pictured here. As far as we know, no one there is cleaning up the mess with their bare hands, or their bodies.

These pictures come from a port city in China called Dalian, where two pipelines exploded on July 16, sending black crude into the Yellow Sea. The people who were there, or who were sent to clean up the terrible accident, were unaware of the dangers they faced as they contended with the petrochemical mess.

Crude oil contains significant quantities of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other dangerous chemicals that do not readily dissolve in water. Hydrocarbons can be absorbed by the human body via inhalation, ingestion or through direct contact with skin.

These photos were taken by Greenpeace photographer Jiang He. They tell their own shocking story, and hold a distant mirror up to the Gulf oil disaster, which released as much as 500 times more oil into the ocean than the explosion in Dalian -- maybe as much as 200 million gallons more.

Where did all that oil in the Gulf go?

Why do they have to clean up the oil spill in Dalian with their bare hands?

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EPA Slams State Department on Proposed Oil Pipeline

White House could intervene as environmental security takes equal place next to energy security as national concern

Jul 27, 2010

The EPA has slowed down the approval process of a permit for a new Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline that a few months ago looked like a shoo-in for a State Department rubber stamp by the fall.

The EPA gave the State department's for the 2000 mile pipeline that will cut across the nation's heartland the worst rating possible, noting that if differences between the agencies can't be resolved, the matter could get referred to the White House for resolution.

In response, the State department announced it intended to add 90 days to the process of making a decision on the pipeline permit to allow the final environmental impact statement to be reviewed by other federal agencies. Observers think that means there will be no decision until sometime next year. 

Last year, a similar pipeline received approval with far less scrutiny. Is environmental security rising to become a matter of primary national interest in the wake of the Gulf oil disaster?

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See Also

A Final Word: Stephen Schneider, Climate Scientist and Warrior, 1945-2010 (VIDEO)

In the video, he articulates the history of climate science and the need for action in less than 53 seconds

Jul 20, 2010

The death of Stephen H. Schneider, a biology professor and a leading researcher in climate change, is being felt around the world. His obituary in both the and the were but two among dozens that took note of his passing.

Below, a brief video of Schneider, speaking on camera.

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Breaking: Hottest June Ever in Global Record, NOAA Says

NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center has records that go back to 1880

Jul 15, 2010

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today released its monthly global temperature analysis and that June 2010 was the hottest ever in the global temperature record.

The combined global land and ocean surface temperature data also showed that the April-June and January-June periods were the warmest on record. NOAA's National Climactic Data Center maintains climate records that go back as far a 1880.

NOAA, a scientific agency within the US Department of Commerce, "understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the oceans to surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources."

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Gulf Oil Spill Reaches the Senate in a Shrimper's Jar

Protester targets Senator Murkowski's moves to shield oil companies from liability and preempt Clean Air Act

Jun 9, 2010

When Senator Lisa Murkowski, the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, started speaking today at yet another Congressional hearing on the Gulf oil spill, it was anything but business-as-usual. Her words got drowned out by a piece of political theater, courtesy of a Texas shrimper and long-time activist.

The packed hearing room watched as Diane Wilson stood up and started pouring oil from a jar on herself. She wanted to protest the Alaska Senator's efforts to block legislation that would lift the cap on liability payments for oil spills in the Gulf, and Murkowski's resolution, up for a vote tomorrow, aimed at stopping EPA from regulating greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act.

"The police grabbed her right away and took her away," Medea Benjamin of activist group CODEPINK, who was in the hearing room, told SolveClimate. She was supporting the action, holding up a sign that read "Murkowski = Big Oil."

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Investigator Warned MMS in 2009 About Deepwater Gas Blowouts in Gulf of Mexico

Sixty-page report points to record of almost 40 deepwater blowouts, and culture of dangerous risk exposure

May 24, 2010

A sixty-page memorandum addressed to Renee Orr, the chief of the leasing division of the Minerals Management Service (MMS), was sent in by an environmental investigator, warning of potential disaster in offshore drilling operations and the particular dangers posed by gas hydrates.

It was written as a public comment to the federal government's proposed rule for oil and gas leasing between 2010 and 2015 on the outer continental shelf, and offers a wide-ranging compilation and analysis, based on meticulously documented scientific, industry and government sources, of many accidents little known to the general public.

It warns of the potential for catastrophic environmental disaster in an offshore accident, highlighting many of the potential dangers that the Deepwater Horizon explosion has now put on display. It also raises concern about the ongoing and unrecognized release of vast quantities of methane into the atmosphere, a gas 20 times more powerful as a warming agent than CO2.

"The primary cause of blowouts, spills and uncontrolled releases of gases from offshore operations is drilling into methane hydrates, or through them into free gas trapped below," the report warns MMS. It cites much evidence compiled from accident investigations and other documents published by MMS itself, which is the federal agency responsible for assuring safety and environmental protection of offshore drilling operations, as well as leasing rules and royalty payments.

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