Press Release

Leading Scientists, Economists Urge Rejection of Keystone XL Pipeline

WASHINGTON (February 11, 2015) – More than 90 leading scientists and economists today called on President Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, once and for all. They did so in a in a letter that comes as Congress prepares to send the president a bill forcing the pipeline’s approval that he has already promised to veto.

The letter, sent to Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, urges them to reject the Keystone XL project on grounds that it will exacerbate climate change by unlocking massive development of tar sands, the dirtiest oil on the planet. Among those signing are a Nobel Prize winner in economics, a Nobel Prize winner in physics and lead authors of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.

The scientists and economists, many of whom sent a similar letter last year, noted that the Environmental Protection Agency recently underscored their argument against approving the pipeline. EPA said in comments submitted on February 2nd to the State Department that its own environmental analysis shows that the “development of oil sands crude represents a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Once again, we strongly 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. “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.”

The full text of the letter follows:

February 11, 2015

Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry,

As scientists and economists, we are concerned about climate change and its impacts. In April, 2014, we sent you a similar letter expressing our concerns about climate change and the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.  Once again, we strongly 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 in 2013 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.”  Since then we have heard your strong words on the threat of climate change, culminating in your State of the Union speech in which you said, “...no challenge - no challenge - poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”

We could not agree more. And now more than ever, 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. The Environmental Protection Agency observed in comments to the State Department, “compared to reference crudes, development of oil sands crude represents a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.”  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. We trust that when the State Department reviews the comments of other agencies as well as citizen comments that it will move away from the model it chose to generate “most likely” scenarios, a model that uses 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 is a critical decision, showing we can act, and would be based on sound science.

As the international community prepares to negotiate a new climate agreement in Paris later this year, the world is looking to the United States to lead through strong climate action at home. Now is the time to reject. 

Sincerely,

John Abraham, Ph.D.

Professor of Engineering

University of St. Thomas

David Ackerly, Ph.D.

Professor

University of California, Berkeley

Rev. Michael Agliardo, SJ, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Sociology

Loyola University Chicago

Philip W. Anderson, Ph.D.

Emeritus Professor

Nobel Laureate Physics 1977

Princeton University

Tim Arnold, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist

Met Office Hadley Center

Kenneth J. Arrow, Ph.D.

Nobel Prize (Economics 1972)

Professor Emeritus of Economics and of Management

Stanford University

Roger Bales, Ph.D.

Professor of Engineering

& Director

Sierra Nevada Research Institute

University of California, Merced

Paul H. Beckwith

Part-Time Professor, Climatology/Meteorology

Department of Geography

University of Ottawa

Anthony Bernhardt, Ph.D.

Physicist (retired)

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Damian C. Brady, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Marine Science

Darling Marine Center

University of Maine

Gordon Bromley, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor

School of Earth and Climate Sciences/Climate Change Institute

University of Maine

Gary Brouhard, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Department of Biology

McGill University

Ken Caldeira, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist

Department of Global Ecology

Carnegie Institution for Science

Grant Cameron, Ph.D.

Data Manager, Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP)

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

Shelagh D. Campbell, Ph.D.

Professor of 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 of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

Simon Fraser University

Gretchen C. Daily, Ph.D.

Bing Professor of Environmental Science

Stanford University

Miriam Diamond, Ph.D.

Professor

Department of Earth Sciences

University of Toronto

Lawrence M. Dill, Ph.D., FRSC

Professor Emeritus

Department of Biological Sciences

Simon Fraser University

Daniel Dixon, Ph.D.

University Sustainability Coordinator

& Research Assistant Professor, Climate Change Institute

University of Maine

Simon Donner, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Climatology

University of British Columbia

Roland Droitsch, Ph.D.

President

KM21 Associates

Steve Easterbrook, Ph.D.

Professor of Computer Science

University of Toronto

Anne Ehrlich, Ph.D.

Senior Research Scientist Emerita

Center for Conservation Biology

Biology Department

Stanford University

T. Todd Elvins, Ph.D.

Vice President

Pacific Integrated Energy, Inc.

David Foster, Ph.D.

Director

Harvard Forest

Harvard University

Alejandro Frid, Ph.D.

Science Coordinator/Ecologist

Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance

Jed Fuhrman, Ph.D.

Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

& McCulloch-Crosby Chair of Marine Biology

University of Southern California

Eric Galbraith, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Earth and Planetary Science

McGill University, Montreal Canada

Geoffrey Gearheart, Ph.D.

Scientist

Center for Marine Biodiversity and Biomedicine

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

John R. Glover, Ph.D.

Professor of Biochemistry

University of Toronto

Gary Griggs, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences

Director, Institute of Marine Sciences

University of California, Santa Cruz

Steven Hackett, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair, Economics

Humboldt State University

Arcata, CA

Joshua B. Halpern, Ph.D.

Professor of Chemistry

Howard University

Gordon Hamilton, Ph.D.

Professor of Earth and Climate Sciences

University of Maine

Alexandra Hangsterfer

Geological Collections Manager

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

James Hansen, Ph.D.

Director

Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions Program

Columbia University Earth Institute

John Harte, Ph.D.

Professor of Ecosystem Sciences

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

Karen Holl, Ph.D.

Professor of Environmental Studies

University of California, Santa Cruz

Roger LeB. Hooke, Ph.D.

Research Professor

Department of Geological Sciences

& Climate Change Institute

University of Maine

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

Mark Jaccard, Ph.D.

University Professor

School of Resource and Environmental Management

Simon Fraser University

Louise E. Jackson, Ph.D.

Professor

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) & 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, Canada

Keith W. Kisselle, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biology & Environmental Science and Academic Chair

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

Department of Environmental Studies

University of California, Santa Cruz

Michael C. MacCracken, Ph.D.

Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs

Climate Institute

Scott A. Mandia

Professor and Assistant Chair

Department of Physical Sciences

Suffolk County Community College

Michael Mann, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Meteorology & Director of Earth System Science Center

Penn State University

Damon Matthews, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Concordia University, Montreal, Canada

James J. McCarthy, Ph.D.

Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography

Harvard University

Susan K. McConnell, Ph.D.

Susan B. Ford Professor & HHMI 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.

Director General

Ontario and Northern Canada

David Suzuki Foundation

& Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Forestry

University of Toronto

Jens Mühle, Dr. rer. nat.

Associate Project Scientist

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

Dustin Mulvaney, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Sustainable Energy Resources

Department of Environmental Studies

San Jose State University

Bill Nye

Science Educator

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

Environmental Scientist

Tetra Tech, Inc.

Michael Oppenheimer, Ph.D.

Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs

Princeton University

Michael Oppenheimer, Ph.D.

Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs

Princeton University

Wendy J. Palen, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biology

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

Institute of Transportation Studies

University of California, Davis

John Pollack

Meteorologist and National Weather Service forecaster (retired)

Jessica Dawn Pratt, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

University of California at Irvine

Lynne M. Quarmby, Ph.D.

Professor & Chair

Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

Simon Fraser University

Alan Robock, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Climatology

Rutgers University

R. Cotton Rockwood

Center for Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Thomas Roush, MD

NRDC Board Trustee

Maureen E. Ryan, Ph.D.

Research Associate

Simon Fraser University

Anne K. Salomon, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

School of Resource and Environmental Management

Simon Fraser University

Benjamin D. Santer, Ph.D.

Atmospheric Scientist

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

& Member

U.S. National Academy of Sciences

Peter C. Schulze, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology and Environmental Science

& Director, Center for Environmental Studies

Austin College

Peter Schwartz, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Department of Physics

California Polytechnic State University

Jason Scorse, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Monterrey Institute of International Studies

Middlebury College

Leonard S. Sklar, Ph.D.

Professor

Department of Earth & Climate Sciences

San Francisco State University

Richard C. J. Somerville, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor Emeritus

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

Brandon M. Stephens

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

Till Wagner, Ph.D.

Scientist

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California, San Diego

Anthony LeRoy Westerling, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering and Geography

University of California, Merced

Kirsten Zickfeld, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Simon Fraser University

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