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Citing Climate Damage, More than 100 Scientists, Economists Urge Obama and Kerry to Reject Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

WASHINGTON (April 7, 2014) – More than 100 leading scientists and economists are calling on the Obama Administration to deny the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline because it will trigger massive development of the world’s dirtiest oil, and escalate climate change. They include Nobel Prize winners in physics and economics, and lead authors of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.

“We urge you to reject the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline as a project that will contribute to climate change at a time when we should be doing all we can to put clean energy alternatives in place,” the scientists and economists write in a letter sent today to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. “The Keystone XL pipeline will drive expansion of the energy-intensive strip-mining and drilling of tar sands from under Canada’s Boreal forest, increasing global carbon emissions. Keystone XL is a step in the wrong direction.”

The letter’s timing is critical. In January, the U.S. State Department released a final Environmental Impact Statement on Keystone XL. Now the administration is formally considering whether the pipeline, aiming to pump tar sands oil from Canada mainly for export through the Gulf of Mexico, is in America’s national interest. A decision could be made in the next couple of months.

In their letter, the scientists and economists commend Obama and Kerry for making strong commitments to fighting climate change. They call on them to turn down the proposed Keystone XL project because the incremental emissions alone could boost annual carbon pollution emissions by more than the output of seven coal-fired power plants.

That would worsen climate change, making the project clearly not in the national interest, they write. The total emissions are far greater, and, as they write, are “emissions that can and should be avoided with a transition to clean energy.”

This is another sign of growing opposition to the project. Recently, more than two million comments calling for rejection of Keystone XL were delivered to the State Department. Last week, more than 200 prominent business leaders sent a letter to Obama and Kerry saying that Keystone XL would be a bad business investment that would exacerbate climate change.

A blog on the letter is here: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/eshope/more_than_100_scientists_and_e.html

The text of the scientist and economist letter follows:

April 7, 2014

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Secretary John Kerry

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20520

Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry,

As scientists and economists, we are concerned about climate change and its impacts. We urge you to reject the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline as a project that will contribute to climate change at a time when we should be doing all we can to put clean energy alternatives in place.

As you both have made clear, climate change is a very serious problem. We must address climate change by decarbonizing our energy supply. A critical first step is to stop making climate change worse by tapping into disproportionately carbon-intensive energy sources like tar sands bitumen. The Keystone XL pipeline will drive expansion of the energy-intensive strip-mining and drilling of tar sands from under Canada’s Boreal forest, increasing global carbon emissions. Keystone XL is a step in the wrong direction.   

President Obama, you said in your speech in Georgetown last year that “allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

We agree that climate impact is important and evidence shows that Keystone XL will significantly contribute to climate change. Fuels produced from tar sands result in more greenhouse gas emissions over their lifecycle than fuels produced from conventional oil, including heavy crudes processed in some Gulf Coast refineries. As the main pathway for tar sands to reach overseas markets, the Keystone XL pipeline would cause a sizeable expansion of tar sands production and also an increase in the related greenhouse gas pollution. The State Department review confirmed this analysis under the scenario that best meets the reality of the opposition to alternative pipeline proposals and the higher costs of other ways of transporting diluted bitumen such as rail. The review found:

“The total lifecycle emissions associated with production, refining, and combustion of 830,000 bpd of oil sands crude oil is approximately 147 to 168 MMTCO2e per year. The annual lifecycle GHG emissions from 830,000 bpd of the four reference crudes examined in this section are estimated to be 124 to 159 MMTCO2e. The range of incremental GHG emissions for crude oil that would be transported by the proposed Project is estimated to be 1.3 to 27.4 MMTCO2e annually.”

To put these numbers into perspective, the potential incremental annual emissions of 27.4 MMTCO2e is more than the emissions that seven coal-fired power plants emit in one year. And over the 50-year expected lifespan of the pipeline, the total emissions from Keystone XL could amount to as much as 8.4 billion metric tons CO2e. These are emissions that can and should be avoided with a transition to clean energy.

The contribution of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to climate change is real and important, especially given the commitment of the United States and other world leaders to stay within two degrees Celsius of global warming. And yet, the State Department environmental review chose an inconsistent model for its “most likely” scenarios, using business-as-usual energy scenarios that would lead to a catastrophic six degrees Celsius rise in global warming.  Rejecting Keystone XL is necessary for the United States to be consistent with its climate commitments. Six degrees Celsius of global warming has no place in a sound climate plan.

Secretary Kerry, in your speech in Jakarta, you said, “The science of climate change is leaping out at us like a scene from a 3D movie – warning us – compelling us to act.” Rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be a decision based on sound science.

The world is looking to the United States to lead through strong climate action at home. This includes rejecting projects that will make climate change worse such as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Sincerely,


John Abraham, Ph.D.

Professor

University of St. Thomas

Philip W. Anderson, Ph.D.

Nobel Prize (Physics 1977)

Emeritus Professor

Princeton University

Tim Arnold, Ph.D.

Assistant Project Scientist
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

Kenneth J. Arrow, Ph.D.

Nobel Prize (Economics 1972)
Professor emeritus of Economics and of

Management Science and Engineering

Stanford University

Roger Bales, Ph.D.

Professor of Engineering

University of California, Merced

Paul H. Beckwith, M.S.

Part-time professor: climatology/meteorology

Department of Geography

University of Ottawa

Anthony Bernhardt, Ph.D.

Physicist and Program Leader (retired)

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Damien C. Brady, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Marine Science
Darling Marine Center

University of Maine

Julie A. Brill, Ph.D.

Director, Collaborative Program in Developmental Biology, and Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics

University of Toronto

Senior Scientist, Cell Biology Program

The Hospital for Sick Children

Gary Brouhard, Ph.D.

Department of Biology

McGill University

Ken Caldeira, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist

Carnegie Institution for Science

Grant Cameron, Ph.D.

Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP)
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

Shelagh D. Campbell, Ph.D.

Professor, Biological Sciences

University of Alberta

Kai M. A. Chan, Ph.D.

Associate Professor & Tier 2 Canada Research Chair (Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services)

Graduate Advisor, RMES Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability

University of British Columbia

Eugene Cordero, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Meteorology and Climate Science

San Jose State University

Rosemary Cornell, Ph.D.

Professor, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

Simon Fraser University

Gretchen C. Daily, Ph.D.

Bing Professor of Environmental Science

Stanford University

Timothy Daniel, Ph.D.

Economist

U.S. Federal Trade Commission

Miriam Diamond, Ph.D.

Professor

Department of Earth Sciences

Cross-appointed to:

Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Sciences

Dalla Lana School of Public Health

School of the Environment

Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences

University of Toronto

Lawrence M. Dill, Ph.D., FRSC

Professor Emeritus

Simon Fraser University

Simon Donner, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Geography

University of British Columbia

Roland Droitsch, Ph.D.

President

KM21 Associates

Nicholas Dulvy, Ph.D.

Professor, Canada Research Chair in Marine Biodiversity

and Conservation Biological Sciences

Simon Fraser University

Steve Easterbrook, Ph.D.

Professor of Computer Science

University of Toronto

Anne Ehrlich, Ph.D.

Biology Department

Stanford University

Paul R. Ehrlich, Ph.D.

Bing Professor of Population Studies and
President, Center for Conservation Biology

Stanford University

Henry Erlich, Ph.D.

Scientist

Center for Genetics

Children’s Hospital Research Institute

Alejandro Frid, Ph.D.

Science Coordinator

Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance

Konrad Gajewski, Ph.D.

Laboratory for Paleoclimatology and Climatology

Department of Geography

University of Ottawa

Eric Galbraith, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Earth and Planetary Science

McGill University

Geoffrey Gearheart, Ph.D.

Scientist, Center for Marine Biodiversity and Biomedicine
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

Alexander J. Glass, Ph.D.

Emeritus Associate Director

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

John R. Glover, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Biochemistry

University of Toronto

Ursula Goodenough, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Biology

Washington University in St. Louis

Stephanie Green, Ph.D.

David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow

Oregon State University

Steven Hackett, Ph.D.

Professor of Economics
Associated Faculty, Energy Technology & Policy

Humboldt State University

Joshua B. Halpern, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Chemistry

Howard University

Alexandra Hangsterfer, M.S.

Geological Collections Manager
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

James Hansen, Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor

Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions

Columbia University Earth Institute

John Harte, Ph.D.

Professor of Ecosystem Sciences

Energy and Resources Group

University of California, Berkeley

H. Criss Hartzell, Ph.D.

Professor

Emory University School of Medicine

Danny Harvey, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Geography

University of Toronto

Rodrick A. Hay, Ph.D.

Dean and Professor of Geography
College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences

California State University Dominguez Hills

Karen Holl, Ph.D.

Professor of Environmental Studies

University of California, Santa Cruz

Robert Howarth, Ph.D.

The David R. Atkinson Professor of

Ecology & Environmental Biology

Cornell University

Jonathan Isham, Jr., Ph.D.

Professor of Economics

Middlebury College

Andrew Iwaniuk, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

University of Lethbridge

Mark Jaccard, Ph.D., FRSC

Professor

School of Resource and Environmental Management

Simon Fraser University

Louise E. Jackson, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources

University of California Davis

Pete Jumars, Ph.D.

Professor of Marine Sciences

Darling Marine Center

University of Maine

David Keith, Ph.D.

Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS); and,

Professor of Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government

Harvard University

Jeremy T. Kerr, Ph.D.

University Research Chair in

Macroecology and Conservation
Professor of Biology

University of Ottawa

Bryan Killett, Ph.D.

Jet Propulsion Lab

Keith W. Kisselle, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biology & Environmental Science
Academic Chair of Center for Environmental Studies

Austin College

Janet E. Kübler, Ph.D.

Senior Research Scientist

California State University at Northridge

Sherman Lewis, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus of Political Science

California State University Hayward

Michael E. Loik, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies

University of California, Santa Cruz

Michael C. MacCracken, Ph.D.

Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs

Climate Institute

Scott A. Mandia, M.S.

Professor/Asst. Chair, Department of Physical Sciences

Suffolk County Community College

Michael Mann, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor and Director of Earth System Science Center

Penn State University

Adam Martiny, Ph.D.

Associate Professor in Marine Science
Department of Earth System Science

University of California, Irvine

Damon Matthews, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and

Concordia University Research Chair

Geography, Planning and Environment

Concordia University

James J. McCarthy, Ph.D.

Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography

Harvard University

Susan K. McConnell, Ph.D.

Susan B. Ford Professor
Dunlevie Family University Fellow
Department of Biology

Stanford University

Dominick Mendola, Ph.D.

Senior Development Engineer
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

Faisal Moola, Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Forestry

University of Toronto; and,

Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies

York University

William Moomaw, Ph.D.

Professor, The Fletcher School

Tufts University

Jens Mühle, Dr. rer. nat.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

Richard B. Norgaard, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus of Energy and Resources

University of California, Berkeley

Gretchen North, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology

Occidental College

Dana Nuccitelli, M.S.

Environmental Scientist

Tetra Tech, Inc.

Michael Oppenheimer, Ph.D.

Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs

Princeton University

Wendy J. Palen, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Earth to Ocean Research Group

Simon Fraser University

Edward A. Parson, Ph.D.

Dan and Rae Emmett Professor of Environmental Law

Faculty Co-Director

Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment

UCLA School of Law

Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, Ph.D.

Louis Block Professor in the Geophysical Sciences

The University of Chicago

Richard Plevin, Ph.D.

Research Scientist
NextSTEPS (Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways)
Institute of Transportation Studies

University of California, Davis

John Pollack, M.S.

Meteorologist; and,

National Weather Service forecaster (retired)

Jessica Dawn Pratt, Ph.D.

Education & Outreach Coordinator
Center for Environmental Biology

University of California, Irvine

Lynne M. Quarmby, Ph.D.

Professor & Chair

Molecular Biology & Biochemistry

Simon Fraser University

Rebecca Rolph, M.S.

Max Planck Institute for Meteorology

Hamburg, Germany; and,

Klimacampus, University of Hamburg

Thomas Roush, MD

Columbia University School of Public Health (retired)

Maureen Ryan, Ph.D.

Research Associate, Simon Fraser University; and,

Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Washington

Anne K. Salomon, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

School of Resource and Environmental Management

Simon Fraser University

Casey Schmidt, Ph.D.

Assistant Research Professor
Desert Research Institute

Division of Hydrologic Sciences

Peter C. Schulze, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology & Environmental Science
Director, Center for Environmental Studies

Austin College

Jason Scorse, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Monterrey Institute of International Studies

Middlebury College

Jamie Scott, MD, Ph.D.

Professor and Canada Research Chair

Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry

Faculty of Science and Faculty of Health Sciences

Simon Fraser University

Michael A. Silverman, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences

Simon Fraser University

Leonard S. Sklar, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Earth & Climate Sciences Department

San Francisco State University

Jerome A. Smith, Ph.D.

Research Oceanographer
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

Richard C. J. Somerville, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Research Professor
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

Brandon M. Stephens, M.S.

Graduate Student Researcher
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

John M. R. Stone, Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor

Carleton University

David Suzuki, Ph.D.

Emeritus Professor

Sustainable Development Research Institute

University of British Columbia

Jennifer Taylor, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

University of California, San Diego

Michael S. Tift, M.S.

Doctoral Student
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

Cali Turner Tomaszewicz, M.S.

Doctoral Student, Biological Sciences

Department of Ecology, Behavior & Evolution

University of California, San Diego

Till Wagner, Ph.D.

Scientist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

Barrie Webster, Ph.D.

Professor (retired)

University of Manitoba

Richard Weinstein, Ph.D.

Lecturer

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Anthony LeRoy Westerling, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of

Environmental Engineering and Geography

University of California, Merced

Mark L. Winston, Ph.D., FRSC

Academic Director and Fellow, Center for Dialogue

Simon Fraser University

George M. Woodwell, Ph.D.

Member, National Academy of Sciences, and

Founder and Director Emeritus

The Woods Hole Research Center

Kirsten Zickfeld, Ph.D.

Professor of Climatology

Simon Fraser University


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