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If you have even a fleeting passion for the environment, you probably already know what a monstrosity Canada's tar sands are. It's been dubbed the "most environmentally destructive project on Earth". A 1,700 mile pipeline that would pump the stuff to refineries along the Gulf coast, the Keystone XL, is currently awaiting the go-ahead from the Obama administration. Which is why scientists, environmentalists, celebrities, and activists are planning a massive protest later this month.When thousands of protesters take to the White House on August 20th, it may quickly become the largest act of civil disobedience the American climate movement has ever seen. Why is the climate movement honing in on the Keystone XL as a key battle?
It's true that the pipeline poses a threat to wildlife and the innumerable ecosystems it will intersect across the nation. But the real issue is the "carbon bomb" that we'd be tethering ourselves to -- and forcing the nation into a continued state of fossil fuel dependency for years to come. Tar sands oil not only emits much more greenhouse gas than conventional oil (it mus be more rigorously refined), but it's still relatively plentiful.
Which is why a legion of the United States' top climate scientists have sent a letter to Barack Obama advising him of the dangers of going ahead with the Keystone XL, and asking him to desist. Here's a snippet (read the whole thing here):
Signatory to that letter are some of the best and brightest scientists in America -- among them, NASA's James Hansen.
We are researchers at work on the science of climate change and allied fields. We are writing to add our voices to the indigenous leaders, religious leaders, and environmentalists calling on you to block the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada's tar sands.
The tar sands are a huge pool of carbon, but one that does not make sense to exploit. It takes a lot of energy to extract and refine this resource into useable fuel, and the mining is environmentally destructive. Adding this on top of conventional fossil fuels will leave our children and grandchildren a climate system with consequences that are out of their control. It makes no sense to build a pipeline system that would practically guarantee extensive exploitation of this resource ...
If the pipeline is to be built, you as president have to declare that it is "in the national interest." As scientists, speaking for ourselves and not for any of our institutions, we can say categorically that it's not only not in the national interest, it's also not in the planet's best interest.
He, along with other luminaries like Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein, and actors like Danny Glover, will be joining thousands of others of concerned citizens in front of the White House to demand that we avoid making a devastatingly crucial mistake.
If you're interested in participating, check out Tar Sands Action to see how you can help.
More on Tar Sands and the Keystone XL
Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Incoming? House Passes Bill Mandating Decision Within 4 Months
Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Could Have 91 Serious Spills in 50 Years