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Canadian scientists urge: vote for the environment

More than 120 of Canada's top global warming scientists joined to call for "strategic voting" in next week's federal election. An open letter was sent to major newspapers across the country on Tuesday, in which the Conservative governments' record on climate change was heavily criticized. 

The letter is signed by Canada's top climate experts, many of whom contributed to the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that earned a Nobel prize. It outlines the urgent need for the federal government to take action and pleads with voters to take the environment seriously.

"While it's clear the public accepts that global warming is a threat, it seems people have simply no idea how serious this issue is," the scientists write. 

The scientists believe that "the concentration of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere has already reached levels that will cause significant effects to the Earth's ecosystems". 

"Global warming is a problem that must be dealt with now, before it's too late," says the letter. "Any further delay will only increase the risks of damage and costs of action."

The letter criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper's plan to focus on emission intensity, not emissions reductions.

"Reducing emission intensity means that you continue to pollute, but do so more efficiently," it says.

"The overall net effect of the federal regulation would be to allow a tripling or more of greenhouse-gas emissions from the oilsands sector by 2017, and possible continued increases after that. Frankly, no matter how you try to spin it, that is not a reduction."

The scientists support the implementation of a carbon-tax like that proposed by the Liberals, and/or a cap-and-trade system such as the one offered by the New Democrats.

"The carbon tax provides price certainty, is easier to implement, more transparent, easy to make revenue-neutral and less open to abuse," the letter says.

Andrew Weaver, a major contributor to the 2007 IPCC report, helped co-ordinate the letter's distribution. He said that it was meant to highlight the risks posed by the Harper governments policies.

"I think extraordinary times take extraordinary measures," said Weaver in an interview. "Scientists don't agree on a lot, but there is a real great sense of urgency within our community and we have witnessed Canada move from a position of international leadership to a position of international obstructionism over the past few years and we're worried."

The letter has been posted online, in English and French, at: site.climateletter.org.

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