Even some scientists opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline are starting to push back against environmentalists’ claims that the project will worsen global warming.
“The extreme statements — that this is ‘game over’ for the planet — are clearly not intellectually true…” said David Keith, a Canadian climate scientist now at Harvard University. Keith is no global warming skeptic, adding that, “I am completely against Keystone, both as an Albertan and somebody who cares about the climate.”
Keith is not alone in challenging the talking point that Keystone would significantly increase carbon dioxide emissions.
“I don’t believe that whether the pipeline is built or not will have any detectable climate effect,” said Ken Caldeira, a climate researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science in California, adding that Obama needed to “signal whether we are going to move toward zero-emission energy systems or whether we are going to move forward with last century’s energy systems.”
“As a serious strategy for dealing with climate, blocking Keystone is a waste of time. But as a strategy for arousing passion, it is dynamite.” said David Victor, a global warming policy expert at the University of California, San Diego.
President Obama said that he would oppose the Keystone XL pipeline only if it significantly contributed to global warming, reigniting the debate over the pipeline’s environmental impact.
Keystone opponents like former NASA scientist James Hansen have called the proposed pipeline a “monster.” Hansen even chained himself to the White House fence with other activists earlier this year.
Pipeline opponents argue the project will significantly add to global warming because the oil it will be transporting — from Canadian tar sands — create up to 20 percent more carbon dioxide emissions than oil emissions do on average.
Earlier this year, however, the State Department found that the pipeline would have little impact on the environment and carbon dioxide emissions because tar sands oil would be brought to market anyways, using methods such as rail or trucking.