Why Keystone matters. It's not just a pipeline.


Tens of thousands gathered Sunday for the #ForwardOnClimate rally.

USA Today reports on the purpose of the rally:

Obama has pledged repeatedly to tackle climate change. In his State of the Union Address, he gave Congress an ultimatum: if lawmakers don't act, he will. Protesters say they are holding him to his word. They want him to not only reject the pipeline but also set limits on carbon pollution from both new and existing power plants. Last year, the EPA proposed limits only on new plants.

In a must-read post, KC Golden writes at Grist about how attempting to stop the Keystone pipeline is a statement of principle:

And Keystone isn’t simply a pipeline in the sand for the swelling national climate movement. It’s a moral referendum on our willingness to do the simplest thing we must do to avert catastrophic climate disruption: Stop making it worse.

Specifically and categorically, we must cease making large, long-term capital investments in new fossil fuel infrastructure that “locks in” dangerous emission levels for many decades. Keystone is a both a conspicuous example of that kind of investment and a powerful symbol for the whole damned category.

Exactly. As Lloyd has noted on TreeHugger before, stopping the Keystone pipeline won't keep the tar sands in the ground or the carbon they will produce out of the atmosphere. Trans Canada could build a pipeline to the west or continue shipping the oil by rail, but as KC makes clear, to not speak out against this pipeline is to concede defeat. And when the stakes are a ruined atmosphere or a chance at preventing catastrophe, what choice do we have?

Last week, I laid out what I believe to be Obama's short- and longer-term strategy when it comes to climate policy and noted how this rally was an important piece of that timeline. What the anti-Keystone action and larger climate movement is doing is helping create the outside pressure Obama will need - and likely wants - to provide political cover for the executive actions he has promised if Congress doesn't act on climate.

Juan Cole lists ways Obama could do more:

Equally important, I believe, is for Obama to use the presidency as a bully pulpit to explain the dangers of climate change to people. He did some of that during Hurricane Sandy. But some appearances at places already devastated by the changes caused by our high-carbon civilization would be all to the good. His EPA is quietly closing coal plants over mercury pollution, but why not publicly campaign against mercury, and do an appearance with Richard Gelfond, the CEO of IMAX, who was crippled by eating fish. Likewise, pushing back against the idea that projects like Keystone would lower the price of gasoline or create jobs requires more than just denial. Showing the way the drought on the Mississippi River has actually put people out of work is equally important (severe weather is a climate-change effect).

He certainly can be doing more and I'm thankful to the #ForwardOnClimate movement for encouraging him to do so.

Tags: Activism | Global Climate Change | Tar Sands | Tar Sands Action

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