According to John Kerry’s State Department, the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will be safe from the climate impacts to which it will contribute.
The department’s contractor-written Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement estimates, and then dismisses, the pipeline’s massive carbon footprint. But the statement also determines that the global warming the pipeline’s dirty crude will cause will not affect the pipeline itself because it “will be buried deep enough”:
During the operations period, climate change projections suggest the following changes:
- Warmer winter temperatures;
- A shorter cool season;
- A longer duration of frost-free periods;
- More freeze-thaw cycles per year (which could lead to an increased number of episodes of soil contraction and expansion);
- Warmer summer temperatures;
- Increased number of hot days and consecutive hot days; and
- Longer summers (which could lead to impacts associated with heat stress and wildfire risks).
The pipeline would be buried deep enough to avoid surface impacts of climate changes (freeze-thaw cycles, fires, and temperature extremes).
As Secretary of State John Kerry said six years ago, “we’re on an urgent clock” to confront fossil-fueled climate change. He compared it to the threat of nuclear weaponry as a “man-made” and “uncontrolled” weapon with “the ability to change life as we know it on this Earth.” Kerry’s recognition of the scientific necessity to keep global concentrations of carbon dioxide below 450 ppm should preclude the possibility of building a pipeline designed to pump 7 gigatons of carbon dioxide worth of tar sands crude over decades. In one of his first speeches as Secretary of State, Kerry said that the United States is in “this moment of urgency to lead on the climate concerns that we share with our global neighbors.”
Why then, does the State Department’s draft impact statement ignore Kerry’s clear understanding of the threat posed by the Keystone XL pipeline? Perhaps it’s because the statement is literally bought and paid for by Keystone XL’s maker, the foreign tar sands company TransCanada.
The impact statement was written by a TransCanada contractor, not by State Department officials. The “sustainability consultancy” Environmental Resources Management was paid an undisclosed amount under contract to TransCanada to write the statement, which is now an official government document.
The impact statement did not take into account the predicted political instability that is already starting to occur because of global warming, however. As Kerry said in 2009, “catastrophic climate change represents a threat to human security, global stability, and — yes — even to American national security.” As economist Sir Nicholas Stern said, “the cost of inaction” on climate change is a “serious risk of global war.”
One might expect that threats to global stability might have an impact on the continued operation of the Keystone XL pipeline, no matter how deep it is buried.
Brad Johnson is the campaign manager of Forecast the Facts.