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Scientists Simple Plea to Secretary Clinton

July 17th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Today, a group of the nation’s leading experts on climate science sent a brief letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  The message is simple: include climate change in the review of the Keystone XL pipeline.  From that letter:

At the moment, your department is planning to consider the effects of the pipeline on “recreation,” “visual resources,” and “noise,” among other factors. Those are important—but omitting climate change from the considerations is neither wise nor credible. The vast volumes of carbon in the tar sands ensure that they will play an important role in whether or not climate change gets out of hand; understanding the role this largescale new pipeline will play in that process is clearly crucial.

Yes, evidently, at this time the Department of State is ‘fast and furious’ in its resolve to understand how the Keystone XL pipeline construction will impact the driving opportunities for off-road vehicle enthusiasts but is maintaining a stoically blind eye to any thoughtful consideration of how Keystone XL just might, in fact, help foster putting more carbon atoms into the atmosphere.  This makes total sense to you, doesn’t it? After all, it isn’t as if anyone is linking the nation’s drought conditions, the severe weather events around the world, or other drastic risks to human activities — including the burning of fossil fuels — is it?

Reminiscent too much of those who highlight (truthfully) that humanity is responsible only a small percent fo the total carbon cycle (conveniently forgetting that it is humanity’s ’small percentage’ that is tipping the balance to change such that we’ve seen a near 50 percent increase in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere with resultant and mounting environmental impacts), Tar Sands advocates like to emphasize that the resulting pollution will only be a small fraction of global CO2 emissions.  Absolutely true — just as each individual coal-fired electricity plant is only a small fraction … However, remembering my elementary-school math, it does seem that ‘fractions’ eventually add up to whole numbers.

There are a plethora of reasons why Keystone XL pipeline is not in the U.S. national interest — from the reality that it will likely be a net jobs loser to the high risk from Delbit oil spills. That the Department of State is not considering, in any meaningful way, the most serious threat to U.S. national security within the Keystone XL pipeline review is a true scandal.

As the scientists put it,

We are writing to ask that the State Department conduct, as part of its evaluation of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal, a serious review of the effect of helping open Canada’s tar sands on the planet’s climate.

Secretary Clinton should act on this request.

UPDATE: Friends of the Earth action page to add your voice to the scientists.
The letter:

July 17, 2012
Dear Secretary Clinton,
We are writing to ask that the State Department conduct, as part of its evaluation of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal, a serious review of the effect of helping open Canada’s tar sands on the planet’s climate.
At the moment, your department is planning to consider the effects of the pipeline on “recreation,” “visual resources,” and “noise,” among other factors. Those are important—but omitting climate change from the considerations is neither wise nor credible. The vast volumes of carbon in the tar sands ensure that they will play an important role in whether or not climate change gets out of hand; understanding the role this largescale new pipeline will play in that process is clearly crucial.
We were pleased that President Obama saw fit to review this project more carefully; it would be a shame if that review did not manage to comprehensively cover the most important questions at issue.
Sincerely,
John Abraham
Associate Professor, School of Engineering
University of St. Thomas
Ken Caldeira
Senior Scientist
Department of Global Ecology
Carnegie Institution
James Hansen
Research Scientist
The International Research Institute for Climate and Society
The Earth Institute, Columbia University
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
Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.

Tags: climate change

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