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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Michael Mann: It's game over for the Keystone pipeline

A vote in the Senate should be the beginning of the end for this dangerous, climate change-generating project. Even conservative estimates don't add up

by Michael Mann, Comment Is Free, The Guardian, May 6, 2014

keystone xl pipeline construction
The White House is rolling out the red carpet for the facts in a new climate report on Tuesday, but XL lobbying continues to win final votes for an end-around official approval. Photograph: Ray Bodden / Flickr via Creative Commons
One month ago, more than 100 North American climate scientists and I warned President Obama and Secretary Kerry that they should reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline – indeed, that it would greaten the risk of dangerous and potentially irreversible climate changes.
Soon thereafter, the administration delayed its long awaited decision on the pipeline – and its insurance of decades of dirty tar-sands extraction, further rises in greenhouse gas levels, and greater warming of the planet – to review the mounting evidence of environmental impacts ... and, perhaps, to hold off until after the mid-term elections.
So why on earth is a group of US Senators – mostly Republicans, but a handful of Democrats, too – still trying to circumvent the approval process and double down on climate change-generating fossil fuels?
The measure on standalone Congressional approval – a last-ditch effort by Senators beholden to fossil-fuel interests and the Koch Brothers, or simply afraid of being targeted by them during their re-election bids – now looks doomed to fail by a couple of votes, but the effort remains mystifying: "Some of us who support it have a little trouble understanding why it's such a big deal," Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Lousiana said the other day.
So allow me to clarify, since the answers still haven't gotten through, no matter how many times we scientists repeat them.
Burning fossil fuels for energy over the past two centuries has now warmed the planet about 1 degree Celsius (about 1.5F), with at least another 0.5C of warming likely as global temperatures continue to rise in response to cumulative historical emissions. That leaves little wiggle room (about 0.5C) if we are to avoid crossing the 2-degrees Celsius warming mark deemed "dangerous" by many scientists studying the impacts of human-caused climate change.
Even the White House is rolling out the red carpet for the facts: the National Climate Assessment, prepared by hundreds of my colleagues, was unveiled on Tuesday morning, warning that climate change has moved "firmly into the present," as Obama makes his most ambitious climate push in months. The UN secretary-general, Ban-Ki Moon, has called for a summit to make serious progress: "If we do not take urgent action, all our plans for increased global prosperity and security will be undone," he said this week. "We can avert these risks if we take bold, decisive action now," he writes in another Guardian op-ed today.
Even the very conservative estimate of my climate scientist colleague Andrew Weaver, which by some gentle critiques leaves out extra fossil fuel emissions resulting from tar sands extraction, is dire: extracting and burning all of the Keystone-targeted oil would likely result in approximately 0.4C of additional warming. Add that to the observed 1C warming and the additional 0.5C committed warming, and we've only got about 0.1 degrees Celsius to spare before we hit that dangerous limit.
Indeed, given the underlying uncertainties, those estimates could well lock in 2C warming – if not more. This is why my colleague James Hansen has characterized approval of the pipeline as tantamount to "game over for the climate." This is why the Congressional shell game should end, on the Senate floor, right away.
To those elected officials who believe we should build the Keystone XL pipeline, I ask: Are you committed to keeping global warming below dangerous levels? If so, are you advocating for a moratorium on all other sources of fossil fuel energy? Are you ready for no more coal mining, no more natural gas extraction and no more oil drilling? Because that is what would likely be required if were to avoid truly dangerous changes to our climate and still approve the pipeline.
Keystone is not "a marginal thing," as pundits argued as recently as Tuesday morning in calling for a compromise. This is not a marginal issue, nor one for compromise.
When it comes to US energy policy, there is a worthy debate to be had about how we reduce our fossil fuel emissions while growing our economy and meeting our energy needs. What might be the role of natural gas and/or nuclear energy in the "bridge" we must build to a fossil fuel-free future? What instruments should we employ to price carbon emissions? Cap and trade? So-called "fee and dividend"? Or how about the revenue-neutral carbon tax favored by Republicans like former congressman Bob Inglis, former George W Bush speechwriter David Frum and former Reagan Secretary of State George Schultz?
Let us have that debate.
But building the Keystone XL pipeline simply makes no sense. It represents an investment in infrastructure that will lock in decades of extraction of dirty, expensive fossil fuels at a time when we need to be rapidly pivoting away from a fossil fueldriven energy economy – as rapidly as possible.
I doubt that any of the remaining Keystone supporters in the Senate, Republican or Democrat, want their legacy to be a planet that they have fundamentally degraded for future generations. But that's what a "yes" vote on this week's vote will mean: the beginning of the end.


Anonymous said...

MM seems to ignore the fact that Canada will use the oil sand even if the pipeline is not built. They will probably move more of the oil by train which is not as safe as by pipeline. Net result - more, not less environmental damage.

Anonymous said...

it's just ridiculous,

I would be more worried with the 54,000,000
tons of concrete that will be used for foundations for the next 60,000 wind turbines Germany plans to build on pristine land .

Tenney Naumer said...

Would you prefer that Germany litter that beautiful landscape with fracking drilling sites?

Oil and gas are finite. For that reason alone we must move to renewable energy sources.

Brian G Valentine said...

The day will come, when it is "game over" for pathetic charlatans like Michael Mann.

Mann has contributed nothing of value in his life and his very poor self-esteem compels him to take his profound shortcomings out on the rest of the world.

Anonymous said...

It's not about Climate Change, it's a violation of NAFTA and US EPA Clean Air Act. It's not an global warming issue, it's about trade fraud. But under NAFTA and new TPP rules, by claiming it's an 'environmental' issue, without being an accepted science at the legislative level, Canada can sue the US in World Court, and force KXL passage, thanks to Mr. Mann.

Gotta' love him!

Anonymous said...

You are assuming that wind turbines and solar panels will be infinitely available, which they are not. Both the resources to manufacture them and the space to install them are finite.

Tenney Naumer said...

Brian, you seem to be one of those people who just cannot learn anything of value.

Dr. Michael Mann's work has been replicated over and over again.

His early work was like all work of young scientists, with room for improvement.

You don't seem to understand that process and believe the long-term smear campaign instead.

Glad I don't know you.

JRWakefield said...

Tenny, that is just plain false. Mann's work has definitely NOT be replicated, in fact just the opposite. He so called "hockeystick" graph has been shown to be false, a complete misrepresentation of the history of the climate. His contention that the planet has warmed 1C because of us is absolutely unproven. There is no empirical evidence the current warm period is ONLY because of us. If it is it is a tiny fraction of that 1C. Besides, a warmer world is a better world for the biota, and humans. Less heating fuel needed! Besides, Mann conveniently forgot to include there has been no net warming for almost 18 years now.

Tenney Naumer said...

Good Lord, you don't read much of the scientific literature, do you, JR?

There have been shown to be dozens of "hockey sticks" in the paleo record.

Even the poor trees that allegedly didn't show warming have been shown now just to have smaller width rings but do show it (can't expect you to have noticed that paper since it came out last week -- I'll see if I can find the abstract to post).

Facts just don't seem to matter to some people.

Anonymous said...

Tenney: When you say Mann's 'research' has been replicated, do you mean when Mann discarded legitimate data that showed warming had stopped by truncating his data series, and then splicing on data from another data series that showed warming so he could 'hide the decline' - is that what you mean?

Mann's 'research' is thoroughly discredited & the guy's considered the village idiot. If his working methods & data are valid he could clear it all up by releasing them to the numerous Freedom of Information Act requests, but he refuses to as he's too afraid people will see what sort of 'scientist' he really is. Good scientists release data in the hope that someone will fill find and correct flaws resulting in a stronger conclusion, charlatans hide their data so that nobody can see their weak 'science' while laughing all the way to the bank with their government grants.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the doom and gloom predictions are not physically possible. The planet will green as it warms, not becoming a barren wasteland. The highest recorded ppm measurement of CO2 in the last 650 million years was 7,500 ppm and has been declining ever since. The normal temperature of the earth over the last 650 million years is actually 10-15 degrees celsius warmer than compared to now with the exception of 5 major ice age events including the Siberian Traps eruptions that lasted for 500,000 years about 250 million years ago and today. Paleo-climate records show that Earth has been ice free multiple times and is completely normal. Our current climate is actually 10-15 degrees celsius cooler than when the dinosaurs roamed the earth

Tenney Naumer said...

Anon, are you completely stupid?

The entire tree-ring research community knew about the problem with that particular set of trees, so they just substituted the actual temperature record that was recorded by THERMOMETERS!

Wow! What a scandal! NOT!!!

Brian G Valentine said...

None of us deniers read much "scientific literchur" Tenney, we just make it all up as we feel like it.

Lots of things have been cited as "evidence" of "climate change" within the "scientific literchur" over the past 20 years or so, Tenney, ever since AGW became rather chi-chi amongst Chardonnay sipping liberals ...

... Name one thing thing cited as "evidence" of "climate change" that has persisted since it was first cited as "evidence."

There is nothing at all, Tenney, nothing that has not reversed itself - nor any evidence persisting within recorded history.

That's a hard thing to come to grips with, isn't it, Tenney.

Brian G Valentine said...

By the way, Tenney, I admire you for allowing AGW criticism to be posted on your blog. Many global warming bloggers won't allow anything except fawning agreement.

AGW was rather fashionable in the early 1960's, Tenney - and even in the 1930's, although few people paid any more attention to it than the threat of UFO's.

Unfortunately AGW became a defining feature of "progressive liberal" politics, a one-size-fits-all explanation of the physical world with no more empirical foundation than "Dialectical Materialism."

Tenney Naumer said...

Brian, I delete plenty of comments. You may have noticed that this blog is not set up to draw a lot of conversation.

Michael Mann is a very hard working scientist and the attacks on him and his family are truly disgusting.

Tenney Naumer said...

As to the very silly meme that there is no evidence, I'll let Dr. Katharine Hayhoe say it a lot better than I can:

Tenney Naumer said...

Good Lord, yet another fool who thinks it will be fine to let CO2 rise to levels not seen for 100s of millions of years.

Tenney Naumer said...

Dear Anon,

Mike Mann did not secretly splice two data records together. The use of the thermometer data was explicitly mentioned in the paper.

You people never get it right.

Tenney Naumer said...

Brian, your libelous smear of Hayhoe went into the rabbit hole. She does not lie. You do. And, you are done here.

George Fuller said...

DO you drive a car?.....Stop it!
Do you use products any of the 5 million barrels of oil consumed daily making plastic and other products? If so...stop it!
Do you have electricity in your home? Stop using it!

Tenney Naumer said...

Wow! You readers of Morano's lies blow the end off the nutter scale!

I want solar and wind power. I want an electric car. Why are fossil fuel companies doing everything to prevent that?

I want the freedom of choice.

Right now, I don't have a choice.

Anonymous said...

Regarding splicing the two datasets together and not telling anyone about it, here's what the Muir report stated:

'Here are Muir Russell’s comments on the IPCC 2001 incident (of which Mann was Lead Author), which they somewhat conflated with the WMO 1999 incident of the “trick” email:

'In relation to “hide the decline” we find that, given its subsequent iconic significance (not least the use of a similar figure in the TAR), the figure supplied for the WMO Report was misleading in not describing that one of the series was truncated post 1960 for the figure, and in not being clear on the fact that proxy and instrumental data were spliced together. We do not find that it is misleading to curtail reconstructions at some point per se, or to splice data, but we believe that both of these procedures should have been made plain – ideally in the figure but certainly clearly described in either the caption or the text.''

It would seem the sceptics aren't the ones who 'always get it wrong', especially when you examine the total failures of the IPCC predictions.

Tenney Naumer said...

You are making a mountain out of a molehill.

Here is what you should know about that figure:

One example of this was the cover art on a WMO 1999 report which, until last November, was completely obscure (we are not aware of any mention of this report or this figure before November in any blogospheric discussion, ever). Nonetheless, in the way of these things, this figure is now described as ‘an icon’ in the Muir Russell report (one of their very few mistakes, how can something be an icon if no-one has ever seen it?). In retrospect (and as we stated last year) we agree with the Muir Russell report that the caption and description of the figure could indeed have been clearer, particularly with regard to the way proxy and instrumental data sources were spliced into a single curve, without indicating which was which. The WMO cover figure appears (at least to our knowledge) to be the only instance where that was done. Moving forward, nonetheless, it is advisable that scientists be as clear as possible about what sorts of procedures have gone into the preparation of a figure. But retrospective applications of evolving standards are neither fair nor useful. - See more at:

Tenney Naumer said...

Dear Anon,

You are completely wrong about the Muir report.

Here is what is actually says: