Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry: An Open Letter on Keystone XL

Spread the love

An Open Letter on the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline from Scientists and Economists

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 interes t 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 pi peline w ould 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 alternativ e 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 MMTCO 2 e 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 MMTCO 2 e. 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 MMTCO 2 e is more than the emissions that seven coal – fired power plants emit in o ne year. And o ver the 50 – year expected life span of the pipeline, th e 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 K eystone XL tar sands pipeline .


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 Cent er University of Maine

Julie A. Brill, Ph.D. Director, Collabo rative Program in Developmental Biology, and Professor, De partment of Molecular Genetics University of Toronto Senior S cientist, Cell Biology Program The Hospital for Sick Children

Gary Brou hard, Ph.D. Department of Biology McGill University

Ken Caldei ra, 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. Assoc iate Prof essor & 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 D alla Lana School of Public Health School of the Environment Department of Physical and Env ironmental 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 Resear ch 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 Galb raith, 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 Chemistr y 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 McKa y Professor of Applied Physics School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS); and, Professor of Public Policy , Kennedy School of Government Ha rvard University

Jeremy T. Kerr, Ph.D. University Research Chair in Ma croecology 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 Univers ity

James J. McCart h y, Ph.D. Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography Harvard University

Susan K. McConnell, Ph.D. Susan B. Ford Professor Dunlevie Family University Fello w 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 F orestry University of Toronto; and , Adjunct Professor, Fa culty of Environmental Studies York Univer sity

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

Raymo nd 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 Pl anck Institute for Meteorology Hamburg, Germany ; and , Kl imacampus, University of Hamburg

Thomas Roush, MD Columbia University School of P u blic 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 Environment al 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 Stud ies 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 Depa rtment San Francisco State University

Jerome A. Smith, Ph.D. Research Oceanographer Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of C alifornia, 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 Brit ish 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. Doctora l 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

A nthony 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 Fou nder and Director Emeritus The Woods Hole Research Center

Kirsten Zickfeld, Ph.D. Professor of Climatology Simon Fraser University

Have you read the breakthrough novel of the year? When you are done with that, try:

In Search of Sungudogo by Greg Laden, now in Kindle or Paperback
*Please note:
Links to books and other items on this page and elsewhere on Greg Ladens' blog may send you to Amazon, where I am a registered affiliate. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, which helps to fund this site.

Spread the love

3 thoughts on “Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry: An Open Letter on Keystone XL

  1. I hope it does some good but my cynicism is reaching astronomical heights these days. Science on the one hand,massive profits for a few on the other hand. Obama being the corporatist he is I fear will choose the latter over the former. Counting on him to walk his talk is not a safe, or imnsho, a wise bet. Not much alternative though with the majority of the politicians at almost every level of government fully bought and paid for.

  2. Excellent.

    I’m inclined to think that Obama was delaying a decision on this until after the IPCC report, and is reading or has read it, and will end up deciding to veto the pipeline on the basis of the warnings in the report. This would be consistent with his approach to some other policy areas: “thinking about it,” collecting more information, then deciding in a manner that’s clearly influenced by the information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *