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Top Climate Scientists Urge Obama To Reject Keystone XL Pipeline, Warn Approval Would ‘Undermine Your Legacy’

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"Top Climate Scientists Urge Obama To Reject Keystone XL Pipeline, Warn Approval Would ‘Undermine Your Legacy’"

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350.org news release

Eighteen of the nation’s top climate scientists released a letter to President Obama today urging him to say no to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

“Eighteen months ago some of us wrote you about the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, explaining why in our opinion its construction ran counter to both national and planetary interests,”  wrote the scientists. “Nothing that has happened since has changed that evaluation; indeed, the year of review that you asked for on the project made it clear exactly how pressing the climate issue really is.”

Indeed the past year has shown that climate change is here. A few months after Superstorm Sandy flooded parts of the Northeast, NOAA announced last week that the average temperature for 2012 was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.2 degrees above normal and a full degree higher than the previous warmest year recorded — 1998.

The State Department is expected to soon release its supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) required for the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. The department’s previous pipeline EIS downplayed climate risks by arguing that the tar sands would be developed with or without Keystone XL and therefore the project had no responsibility for the additional greenhouse gas emissions that come from burning tar sands oil.

But two of Canada’s largest banks, TD Economics and CIBC, have recently said that without added capacity, “Canada’s oil industry is facing a serious challenge to its long-term growth” and that “Canada needs pipe — and lots of it — to avoid the opportunity cost of stranding over a million barrels a day of potential crude oil growth.”

The Obama Administrations has promised action on climate change but if KXL is approved, the Administration would be actively supporting and encouraging the growth of an industry which has demonstrably serious effects on climate.

Thousands of concerned citizens will come to Washington, DC on February 17th, President’s Day weekend, to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. Rally information is at www.350.org/presidentsday.

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Full text of the letter:

Dear Mr. President,

You take office for the second time at a critical moment. As you may know, the U.S. has just recorded the hottest year in its history, beating the old mark by a full degree; the same year that saw the deep Midwest drought, and the fury of Hurricane Sandy, also witnessed the rapid and unprecedented melt of the Arctic ice pack.

If we are to restrain the rise in the planet’s temperature, it will require strong action from, among others, the planet’s sole superpower. Some of that work will be difficult, requiring the cooperation of Congress. But other steps are relatively easy.

Eighteen months ago some of us wrote you about the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, explaining why in our opinion its construction ran counter to both national and planetary interests. Nothing that has happened since has changed that evaluation; indeed, the year of review that you asked for on the project made it clear exactly how pressing the climate issue really is.

We hope, as scientists, that you will demonstrate the seriousness of your climate convictions by refusing to permit Keystone XL; to do otherwise would be to undermine your legacy.

Thank you,

James Hansen
Research Scientist
The International Research Institute for Climate and Society
The Earth Institute, Columbia University

Ralph Keeling
Director
Scripps CO2 Program Scripps Institution of Oceanography

John Harte
Professor of Ecosystem Sciences
University of California

Jason E. Box
Professor
Byrd Polar Research Center

John Abraham
Associate Professor, School of Engineering
University of St. Thomas

Ken Caldeira
Senior Scientist. Department of Global Ecology
Carnegie Institution

Michael MacCracken
Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs
Climate Institute

Michael E. Mann
Professor of Meteorology
Director, Earth System Science Center
The Pennsylvania State University

James McCarthy
Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography
Harvard University

Michael Oppenheimer
Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs
Woodrow Wilson School and Department of Geosciences
Princeton University

Raymond T. Pierrehumbert
Louis Block Professor in the Geophysical Sciences
The University of Chicago

Richard Somerville
Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Research Professor
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

George M. Woodwell
Founder, Director Emeritus, and Senior Scientist
Woods Hole Research Center

Mauri Pelto
Department of Environmental Science
Nichols College

David Archer
Professor, Department of Geophysical Sciences
The University of Chicago

Dr. Ted Scambos
Lead Scientist, National Snow and Ice Data Center
University of Colorado at Boulder

Terry L. Root
Senior Fellow
Stanford University

Alan Robock, Professor II
Distinguished Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences
Rutgers University

Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.

– 350.org news release

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21 Responses to Top Climate Scientists Urge Obama To Reject Keystone XL Pipeline, Warn Approval Would ‘Undermine Your Legacy’

  1. Zimzone says:

    ‘The department’s previous pipeline EIS downplayed climate risks by arguing that the tar sands would be developed with or without Keystone XL and therefore the project had no responsibility for the additional greenhouse gas emissions that come from burning tar sands oil.’
    This sums up the fossil fuel fiends’ attitude accurately. In other words, if you don’t let us have our way, we’ll go someplace else.’
    OK, go somewhere else. Construct a 1,200 mile pipeline to the west, which includes going through the Canadian Rockies.
    Good luck with that!

  2. Timothy Ward says:

    In support of this, I spoke recently with a senior advisor to the Canadian government. He told me the whole Tar Sands project no longer makes economic sense – because fracking has brought the cost of energy down so much in the US, and will keep costs down for a long time. When the Tar Sands were being developed, the impact of fracking on energy prices was not a consideration. Now, the economic equation has changed and Canadians are stuck with it – this is NO justification for the US to invest in Canada’s boondoggle.

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    The fact that Obama even considers this an issue that he needs to think about is worrying. Tar Sands means more global warming, and a whole lot of pollution.

    Our President needs to learn how to spell the words “leader” and “protect”. Hint: It’s not supporting the French in Mali, or bombing villages in Pakistan.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Obama will, on the evidence of his Presidential record, allow Keystone. I cannot see any other result. I hope I’m wrong.

      • Superman1 says:

        Whether he allows it or not, it makes little difference to the larger climate change problem. As long as fossil energy demand is allowed to be satisfied, we can extract all types of fossil fuels to satisfy our needs domestically and in foreign countries, and there will always be foreign countries willing to sell us any gas, oil, and coal to make up for our deficits. Concentration on this issue is focusing on the weeds and not looking at the lawn. There have to be top-down mandates, voluntary or involuntary, that drastically limit the use of fossil fuels; i.e., the strictest of rationing.

  4. fj says:

    Even more worrying is that Obama’s constituency feels that they must appeal to his sense of legacy instead of just doing the right thing.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Obama’s legacy so far amounts to non-stop dishonouring of the promises he made in order to get elected, total subservience to that money power that recruited him, employed him and financed his political career and the perfection of the art of the political ‘long con’. Eight years long, to be exact.

  5. Sasparilla says:

    As the President who approved the original Keystone tar sands pipeline and the Alberta tar sands pipeline shortly after getting into office (summer of 2009) – which are now operating at 100% capacity to refineries in the center of the country – it would be stunning to see President Obama veto the XL expansion of the existing Keystone tar sand pipeline on climate change grounds after what he’s said previously about the issue.

    Obviously if he were serious about climate change and was looking for a way to start attacking it – the biggest opportunity was to go after the recent tax expiration negotiations with a carbon tax as a revenue creator of some sort – but the administration put a stake through the heart of that idea as soon as others brought it up.

    I’d love to be stunned though and have him veto it on climate change grounds.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      The mesmeric effect that Obama exerts over the Obamatons is a wonder to behold. He has repudiated almost every promise he made to the Hope Fiends in order to get their votes, yet they keep expecting that he will somehow change back to his old, vote-seeking, self. That is definitely not in the script.

  6. RJ Pisko says:

    As a third generation Albertan (my sons the fourth) I am pleading with President Obama to stop the madness. The unmitigated greed of Alberta – and especially that of Stephen Harper – WILL ruin our planet long before its time; there is no reasonable doubt about that. The Alberta and Harper Conservative governments are the extremists, the radicals hell-bent on amassing wealth at the expense of the environment and qualty of life of the entire world population. The attitude is “well what we’re doing isn’t as bad as what they’re doing so it’s OK”. God help us all if the Keystone is allowed to set what may be the most horrifying precedent ever commited by a world leader. Please, sir, do the right thing.

  7. Bart Flaster says:

    I have seen the future and it’s gassy.

    Nine out of ten… not such a good thing.

    http://money.cnn.com/gallery/news/economy/2012/08/27/expensive-energy-projects/index.html

  8. Bart Flaster says:

    I don’t think and All of the Above Energy policy is going to exclude the pipeline – no matter how much people protest.

  9. Dan Ives says:

    “…to do otherwise would be to undermine your legacy.” – I disagree. When Obama approves Keystone XL, it will not undermine his legacy. It will BE his legacy.

    Of course, once he approves it, will his devout followers finally abandon him and his party?

  10. Paul Magnus says:

    What legacy? Would help repair one…

  11. Endofmore says:

    The keystone pipeline means jobs, no matter that it also adds to global suicide.
    Short termism is everything in this game
    Sell the oil and let’s all get paid

    • Sundownlf says:

      You hit the nail on the head: “Sell the oil and let’s all get paid.” Tricky part is, though, that the oil is NOT doing anything for the U.S. – It will be sent overseas, to the highest bidder/s and we will see NO benefit from it!

      We get the damage to our country – ‘they’ (?) get the money.

      What a ‘fracked’ system it is!

  12. Attu Ritsch says:

    What legacy???

  13. Mary Shaffer says:

    For the future generations an obvious action. Please be the smart president we elected you to be.

  14. Bradley Porter says:

    Lots of people have heard about the controversy over the northern section of the Keystone XL pipeline — that section is still awaiting approval from the federal government. But I point out that President Obama has already endorsed the southern stretch of the pipeline. This is concerning, I feel he will cave and if not him, then the next person in line. This is sadly probably inevitable

  15. This is such an important issue Mr. Romm. I wrote my own post over at Unnatural Disasters about Obama’s potentially tarnished legacy should he decide to empower State to approve this monstrosity. “Game over” indeed.

    http://unnaturaldisasters.org/2013/01/15/president-obama-and-keystone-xl/