As the U.S. and Russia take the first halting steps to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean, experts say the harsh climate, icy seas, and lack of any infrastructure means a sizeable oil spill would be very difficult to clean up and could cause extensive environmental damage.
When Alberta’s oil sands industry marked its 40th anniversary in 2007, one statistic stood out among the many that measure economic success and environmental impact: Not a single acre of mined land had been certified as being "reclaimed" to government standards.
As debate over the Keystone XL and other pipeline projects continues, crude oil from the Alberta tar sands and western U.S. oil fields is increasingly being hauled by railroad. Critics warn that this development poses a threat not only to the environment but to public safety.
Environmental questions about Canada’s massive tar sands development have long centered on greenhouse gas emissions. Now there are mounting concerns about the huge volumes of water used by the oil industry and the impact on the vast Mackenzie River Basin.
When China — along with Japan, South Korea, Singapore, India, and Italy — was granted permanent observer status in the Arctic Council last month, it left many experts wondering whether a paradigm shift in geopolitics is taking place in the region.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has been weakening Canada’s environmental regulations and slashing funds for oversight and research — all while promoting aggressive resource development. Critics warn these unprecedented actions pose a major threat to the nation’s vast natural heritage.