05/21/2013 04:32 EDT | Updated 02/17/2014 09:59 EST

James Hansen: Canadian Politicians Acting As Oil Industry's 'Salesmen'

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Dr James Hansen, Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and world expert on global warming, is pictured during a photocall organised by Christian Aid in Coventry, West Midlands on March 19, 2009. Hansen will join hundreds of campaigners who are expected to take part in a day of action to highlight the danger of climate change during a march in Coventry. AFP PHOTO/Carl de Souza (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

Former NASA climatologist James Hansen lobbed another grenade in what has become something of a war of words against Canadian politicians who support the oilsands when he said they are “acting as salesmen for those people who will gain from the profits” from the fossil fuel industry.

I don't think they are looking after the rights and wellbeing of the population as a whole,” he told Britain’s Guardian in an interview.

His comments came after a host of Canadian politicians pitched Alberta’s oilsands outside Canada, including Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver. Oliver, while on a tour in Washington, D.C. in April, criticized Hansen over a New York Times editorial in which the scientist warned about the "apocalyptic" climate consequences of exploiting Canada’s oilsands, leading to a recent back-and-forth between the two.

Oliver last month slammed Hansen’s “exaggerated rhetoric” regarding the oilsands, and Hansen hit back, calling the Conservatives a “Neanderthal government” in the “hip pocket of the fossil fuel industry.”

Hansen reiterated his concerns in the Guardian interview, saying “the fossil fuel industry has so much money that they are buying off governments.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is the most recent Canadian politician to make statements touting the benefits of Keystone XL in a foreign country.

Last week, he said Keystone, which would transport crude from Alberta’s oilsands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, “absolutely needs to go ahead,” acknowledging environmental concerns but also citing the project’s ability to create jobs, assure energy security and reduce dependence on offshore oil.

"Less than one tenth of one per cent of global emissions are in the oilsands, so it’s almost nothing globally,” Harper said at the time.

Oliver, who previously said the oilsands represent “a miniscule amount” of global emissions, essentially dismissed Hansen’s oilsands claim in the Times editorial, which asserted that “If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.”

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) will head to Washington in June to promote Keystone, focusing on Democrats who are “on the fence,” CAPP President David Collyer told Bloomberg News.

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