Extraction of Alberta's energy-intensive tar sands has expanded steadily in recent years, with about 232 square miles now exposed by mining operations at the Athabasca River site. Tar sands production is expected to double over the next decade, which could mean the destruction of 740,000 acres of boreal forest and a 30% increase in carbon emissions from Canada's oil and gas sector.
New satellite images show the dramatic expansion that has taken place from 2001 through 2011.(Photos by Robert Simmon, NASA/Landsat/USGS.)
So what's the actual impact on the ground? Here's what happens when you turn a carbon sink like the Boreal Forest into a carbon-spewing pit of tar sands. (Photos from VisionShare and Co-op Financial Services via Flickr. Note: These are not the same patch of land.)