Climatologist Caldeira: Building Keystone XL Would Mean Obama Is Not Serious About Climate Action

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"Climatologist Caldeira: Building Keystone XL Would Mean Obama Is Not Serious About Climate Action"

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Climatologist Ken Caldeira has a message for deniers who misrepresent his views on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline:

Building Keystone XL will mean that Obama is not serious about transitioning to a near-zero emission energy system, and that could have huge and easily detectable consequences for global climate.

Caldeira is not a fan of any type of carbon pollution. Back in 2009 he wrote to Climate Progress in response to the error-riddled book SuperFreakonomics, which had grossly mischaracterized his views on CO2:

I compare CO2 emissions to mugging little old ladies….  It is wrong to mug little old ladies and wrong to emit carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. The right target for both mugging little old ladies and carbon dioxide emissions is zero.

He told CP in 2012 that natural gas is “a bridge to a world with high CO2 levels.”

Heck, earlier this year he even joined with 17 of the nation’s top climate scientists to send a letter to President Obama urging him to say no to Keystone.

So you would think Caldeira would be the last person the deniers would quote out of context as a Keystone supporter. OK, you wouldn’t think that because you know how the deniers operate.

At the recent House GOP hearing/denier-fest, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) quoted Caldeira seeming to say the pipeline will not have any detectable climate effect (see video here after 2:00). And the deniers began polluting the blogosphere with this quote.

So Caldeira wrote CP to explain what he really believes:

This came out of a 30-minute interview with a journalist (Jeff Tollefson of Nature) in which I was explaining basic climate science, in which I was saying that because of natural variability etc., no individual emission is statistically detectable, yet in aggregate we are radically altering our climate. My quote was to Nature magazine, so I thought I could be scientifically sophisticated with the reporter.

I was saying that it is critically important that we stop using the sky as a waste dump for our CO2 pollution. I further said that it is critical that Obama signal whether we are going to transition to the near-zero emission energy system of the future or cling to the climate-damaging fossil-fueled energy system of the past.

The quote that it won’t have a detectable effect (in the sense of Ben Santer’s climate detection studies) referred to the direct emissions narrowly associated with the pipeline itself. (For example, the climate effect from any one of us is not statistically detectable in the climate system, but in aggregate effects of our combined emissions are radically transforming our planet.)

Building Keystone XL will mean that Obama is not serious about transitioning to a near-zero emission energy system, and that could have huge and easily detectable consequences for global climate.

If you want to know more of what Caldeira actually believes on climate change, tune out the deniers and tune into his twitter feed.

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