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Marking Up the Alberta Government's $30,000 Keystone XL Ad

This is a guest post by Heather Libby.

If you're a regular reader of the Sunday New York Times, you might have noticed a half-page ad in the A section promoting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline last weekend. Paid for by the Alberta government with $30,000 of taxpayer funds, the text-heavy ad asserted several reasons why President Obama should approve the project.

Their primary argument? This is “the choice of reason”.

Putting aside the fact that their word selection suggests those who oppose the pipeline are illogical or unreasonable; the ad says “some still argue Keystone should be decided on emotion rather than science and fact about Canada's responsibly developed oil sands resource”.

We completely agree. Here are a few scientific facts it forgot to mention:

Onslaught of Kochtopus Groups Threaten Kansas Clean Energy

By Connor Gibson, crossposted with permission from Greenpeace USA.

A recent flood of Koch-supported think tanks, junk scientists and astroturf groups from inside and outside of Kansas are awaiting the outcome of a bill this week that could stall progress on the growth of clean energy in Kansas.

States around the country, including Texas, Ohio, Missouri and North Carolina are poised to cut back on government support for clean energy jobs using model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC, which brings companies together with state lawmakers to forge a wish list of corporate state laws behind closed doors, is coordinating this year's assault on state laws that require a gradual increase of electricity generated by clean energy sources.

ALEC and a hoard of other Koch-funded interests operating under the umbrella of the State Policy Network have hit Kansas legislators hard with junk economic studies, junk science and a junk vision of more polluting energy in Kansas' future. Koch Industries lobbyist Jonathan Small has added direct pressure on Kansas lawmakers to rollback support for clean energy.

People in Glass Houses Should Not Throw "Boneheads"

This is a guest post by economist James P. Barrett, Ph.D.

“Utterly Boneheaded.” That is how Joe Nocera, writing in The New York Times characterized James Hansen (head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies), Bill McKibben (founder of 350.org) and other climate change activists opposing the Keystone XL pipeline.

If you haven’t been following it, the pipeline in question would bring something called bitumen, extracted from oil soaked sands in Canada, to U.S. refineries in Texas where they would turn it into oil products for sale on international markets.

If they stop the pipeline to Texas, activists will force oil companies to look at a more expensive plan to build a pipeline to British Columbia and ship the bitumen from there to refineries in China, an alternative that is facing its own opposition within Canada.

What Nocera thinks is boneheaded is not so much that activists want to reduce oil consumption and carbon emissions per se, but their strategy overall. As long as the demand for oil keeps going up, oil producers will keep developing unconventional oil reserves like the Canadian tar sands in question. In Nocera’s view, attacking the pipeline and the tar sands won’t help as long as the demand for oil is strong and growing. The problem, as he sees it is demand, not supply.

Nocera is right, but only to the extent that his point is meaningless.

Not Smart, But Not ALEC Either

This is a guest post by Glenn Branch from the National Center for Science Education

When the Arizona Daily Star asked the president of the Arizona Education Association what he thought about Senate Bill 1213, a proposed law which would encourage teachers in the state’s public schools to misrepresent evolution and climate change as controversial, he rightly explained that it was unnecessary and misleading, saying, “The controversy is at the political level, not the scientific level.”

Where he may have erred, however, was in his attribution of the bill to the American Legislative Exchange Council. He’s not alone. A number of journalists and bloggers have charged that ALEC drafted the model bill that inspired Arizona’s SB 1213 and the similar bills to have been introduced in state legislatures around the country, including DeSmogBlog’s own Steve Horn.

But when they first appeared, these bills represented the latest development in the strategy of creationists. No longer was it possible to ban the teaching of evolution; no longer was it possible to require the teaching of Biblical creationism, creation science, or intelligent design. So creationists started, around 2004, to resort to a fallback strategy, undermining the teaching of evolution. Climate change is a postscript.

The Resurgence of an Evolving Climate Movement, Part 2

Ken Wu is executive director of Majority for a Sustainable Society (MASS) and co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance

For Part 1 of this article, click here.

In the first part of this article, I described what specific challenges the climate movement faces when confronting its own limiting tendencies as well as industry funded public relations campaigns. In this second part I outline what I think are four essential ways the climate movement must evolve in order to overcome these obstacles.

FIRST, we must become a lot more political, in the sense that it’s fundamentally the laws, policies, and agreements that shape our greater society and economy. And it’s our society and economy which are the foundations of our personal lifestyles. What is available, affordable, practical, and possible in our lifestyles is largely a product of the society in which we live – what clean energy sources exist at what price relative to dirty energy, how available public transit is, how well or poorly our cities are designed for walking, cycling, and accessing our needs, how energy efficient our buildings are, and so on.  

No individual is an island unto himself; the way we live is fundamentally shaped by the economy and society in which our lifestyles are nested.  

The Keystone Principle

This is a guest post by KC Golden, originally published on GripOnClimate.org

The big President’s Day rally on the National Mall is more than a Keystone pipeline protest.  It’s a statement of principle for climate action.

After a year of unprecedented destruction due to weather extremes, the climate fight is no longer just about impacts in the future.  It’s about physical and moral consequences, now.  And Keystone isn’t simply a pipeline in the sand for the swelling national climate movement.  It’s a moral referendum on our willingess to do the simplest thing we must do to avert catastrophic climate disruption:  Stop making it worse. 

The Credibility Gap: All Talk and Not Much Action on Climate Change

By Hannah McKinnon, National Program Manager at Environmental Defense.

In last week's State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated his vision for clean energy and urgent action on global warming. With TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline on the frontlines and looking threatened, oil industry supporters are suddenly desperate to look like the environmental and climate risks of the tar sands are under control.
 
But there’s a massive credibility gap as Canada’s contribution to global warming is spiralling out of control, with the reckless expansion of the tar sands.
 
We’ve always believed that actions speak louder than words. So while the oil industry and government embark on a pro-tar sands PR campaign, let’s look at how Canada has behaved on climate action and the environmental risks of the tar sands.  

The Resurgence of an Evolving Climate Movement, Part 1

Ken Wu is executive director of Majority for a Sustainable Society (MASS) and co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance. Read Part 2 of this series here.

After years of apathy and political inertia, North America’s climate sustainability movement has found itself in the midst of a timely resurgence, as is evident by the recent massive expansion of Bill Mckibben's 350.org movement against the Keystone XL pipeline.

With climate change regaining its footing as a central political issue, now is the time to pressure governments to enact the needed laws, policies, and agreements required to curtail runaway global warming. But unless the moment is seized right, climate action will be stymied again – and there is no time to wait for another opportunity.

During his State of the Union address on February 12, 2013, US President Barack Obama stated:

“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change…We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”
 
Recent studies project that the Earth’s average temperature is on course to rise over four degrees this century, far beyond the two degree rise when “runaway” global warming kicks-in due to positive feedbacks that make it extremely difficult to halt.

Frackademics: Shale Institute’s Jacobi hired to do seismic study for DEC

New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation has chosen Robert Jacobi, a University at Buffalo geologist with ties to the natural gas industry, to study the link between fracking and earthquakes, a DEC spokeswoman told Bloomberg’s Jim Esftathiou, Jr. Jacobi, who is a senior advisor to gas driller EQT Production and who runs a geoscience consultancy, was a co-director of the University at Buffalo’s short-lived Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI), which was closed in November 2012 following a controversy over an industry-friendly study that downplayed fracking’s risks. “Jacobi has a vast range of experience that makes his expertise useful,” the DEC said in a statement e-mailed to Bloomberg. Jacobi’s experience includes a long career with the fossil fuel industry, to which he still has ties, and recently reviewing the report that led to SRSI’s closure.

The Baffling Response to Arctic Climate Change

By David Suzuki

The Arctic may seem like a distant place, just as the most extreme consequences of our wasteful use of fossil fuels may appear to be in some distant future. Both are closer than most of us realize.
 
The Arctic is a focal point for some of the most profound impacts of climate change. One of the world’s top ice experts, Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University, calls the situation a “global disaster,” suggesting ice is disappearing faster than predicted and could be gone within as few as four years.
 
“The main cause is simply global warming: as the climate has warmed there has been less ice growth during the winter and more ice melt during the summer,” he told the U.K.’s Guardian.
 
Over the past 30 years, permanent Arctic sea ice has shrunk to half its previous area and thickness. As it diminishes, global warming accelerates. This is due to a number of factors, including release of the potent greenhouse gas methane trapped under nearby permafrost, and because ice reflects the sun’s energy whereas oceans absorb it.

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