"Based on evidence raised across our many disciplines, we offer a unified voice calling for a moratorium on new oilsands projects," said a statement issued Wednesday by the group, led by academics at the University of Waterloo, Simon Fraser University and the University of Arizona.
The statement, signed by a range of researchers including biologists, political scientists, physicists, economists and geographers, including a Nobel Prize winner and several Order of Canada recipients, is being sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, MPs and the Canadian media.
The group says it has requested meetings with federal politicians to discuss the science behind their reasons in favour of the moratorium. Those include concerns about carbon emissions making climate change worse, hampering the shift to clean energy, environmental contamination, aboriginal rights, and potential effects on international policy. The researchers also cited evidence that stopping oilsands expansion won't hurt the economy.
Marc Jaccard, a professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University who co-authored the statement, said the group is targeting the oilsands primarily because most of them are Canadian.
"So of course you try to clean up your own backyard before you start pointing your finger at others," Jaccard said.
Carbon deal signed
He added that the scientists are not calling for existing oilsands projects to shut down — they just don't want new ones to start up.
That makes good sense, he added, given that G7 leaders, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, have just agreed to end the use of fossil fuels by 2100.
"Would you really want to start new investment and expansion on something you want to shut down in next few decades?"
The statement is a follow-up to a commentary published in the scientific journal Nature last year that also called for a moratorium and was signed by just eight researchers.
Jaccard said that since then, other researchers from many different fields have approached him wanting to become more engaged in public debate about the issue.