Again Scientists Urge Obama—Reject Tar Sands Pipeline

Posted on January 25, 2013


reject keystone xlLast year, President Obama postponed a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, a project to ship dilbit, diluted bitumen, and synthetic crude from the tar sands region of Alberta to the US Gulf Coast.  His administration is set very soon to make a decision on whether to allow that controversial pipeline.  Such a decision has been rendered particularly important to tar sands corporations given the difficulty Prime Minister Harper and those corporations have been experiencing trying to convince British Columbians to allow a similar pipeline–called the Northern Gateway–through their territory.

Some people think that facilitating the distribution and enabling the extraction of tar sands oil is absolutely the wrong move for the planet given the dirtiness of that oil and the project’s gigantic environmental footprint, the reality of global climate change, the palpable reality of climate disaster and the promise of worse climate disaster to come. 

Among those who think Obama should reject Keystone XL are the 18 distinguished scientists who signed the following letter.

Dear Mr. President,

You take office for the second time at a critical moment. As you may know, the U.S. has just recorded the hottest year in its history, beating the old mark by a full degree; the same year that saw the deep Midwest drought, and the fury of Hurricane Sandy, also witnessed the rapid and unprecedented melt of the Arctic ice pack.

If we are to restrain the rise in the planet’s temperature, it will require strong action from, among others, the planet’s sole superpower. Some of that work will be difficult, requiring the cooperation of Congress. But other steps are relatively easy.

Eighteen months ago some of us wrote you about the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, explaining why in our opinion its construction ran counter to both national and planetary interests. Nothing that has happened since has changed that evaluation; indeed, the year of review that you asked for on the project made it clear exactly how pressing the climate issue really is.

We hope, as scientists, that you will demonstrate the seriousness of your climate convictions by refusing to permit Keystone XL; to do otherwise would be to undermine your legacy.

Thank you,

James Hansen
Research Scientist
The International Research Institute for Climate and Society
The Earth Institute, ColumbiaUniversity

Ralph Keeling 
Scripps CO2 Program Scripps Institution of Oceanography

John Harte
Professor of Ecosystem Sciences
University of California

Jason E. Box
Byrd Polar ResearchCenter

John Abraham
Associate Professor, School of Engineering
University of St. Thomas

Ken Caldeira
Senior Scientist. Department of Global Ecology
Carnegie Institution

Michael MacCracken
Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs
Climate Institute

Michael E. Mann
Professor of Meteorology
Director, Earth System Science Center
The PennsylvaniaStateUniversity

James McCarthy
Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography

Michael Oppenheimer
Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs
Woodrow Wilson School and Department of Geosciences

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

Mauri Pelto
Department of Environmental Science

David Archer
Professor, Department of Geophysical Sciences
The University of Chicago

Dr. Ted Scambos
Lead Scientist, National Snow and Ice Data Center
University of Colorado at Boulder

Terry L. Root
Senior Fellow

Alan Robock, Professor II
Distinguished Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences


Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.