Environmentalists already ramping up pressure on Sec. Kerry to tackle global warming

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Now that former Sen. John Kerry has been confirmed as secretary of state, environmentalists are ramping up the pressure for him to take the lead on climate change, including blocking the Keystone XL pipeline and securing a global agreement and funding to deal with climate change.

“The U.S. must play a leadership role in shaping a fair and ambitious international agreement that includes concrete actions from all key countries to put the world on a path to averting the worst impacts of climate change,” reads a letter to Kerry signed by environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council,, Greenpeace, and the Sierra Club.

The letter comes in the wake of President Obama’s inaugural speech where he made a moral argument for responding to climate change, invoking God and honoring the founding fathers. Also, during his Senate confirmation hearings Kerry called climate change a “life-threatening issue” and said that the U.S. should continue promoting green energy use. In the Senate, Kerry was also led the failed 2010 effort to pass a cap and trade bill.

“Securing strong international action, rejecting dirty fuels, and mobilizing climate finance serve vital U.S. interests,” the letter continues. “These actions will play a critical role in reducing climate change, promoting global stability and human security. … Accordingly, we urge you to make these actions a top priority of your international agenda.”

The State Department is soon expected to release an environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline that will bring tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in Texas. TransCanada first submitted its plans for the pipeline to the State Department in September 2008, and it has been waiting for approval for more than 1600 days — World War II was fought and won in 1,366 days, according to House Republicans.

The pipeline has been controversial, pitting the oil industry against environmental groups who say the pipeline will only contribute more to global warming and harm the environment.

“This pipeline is not in our national interest — the evidence shows it would unlock vast amounts of additional carbon that we cannot afford to burn, extend our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels, endanger health and safety, and put critical water resources at risk,” reads the letter. “We urge [Sec. Kerry] to ensure the State Department has a full understanding of the climate and environmental impacts of this pipeline which have been previously ignored.”

The pipeline would bring in 830,000 barrels of oil per day to U.S. refineries reaching as high as 4 million barrels per day by 2020, according to the American Petroleum Institute. This would greatly reduce U.S. imports from less stable regions of the world. Some say that the U.S. can approve the pipeline and still maintain high environmental standards.

“Environmental concerns and economic interests are not mutually exclusive goals. Americans can—and do—successfully pursue energy needs and environmental stewardship,” said Katie Tubb, research assistant at the Heritage Foundation, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the pipeline could raise carbon dioxide emissions by 27.6 million metric tons, which environmentalists say will contribute more to global warming.

The letter also suggests that Kerry secure a global agreement to deal with climate change as well as funding to poor countries from rich countries to help them deal with the effects of climate change and “greening” their economies.

“The U.S. must maintain and increase our investments in critical international actions to address climate change and the impacts that are already being felt, particularly in developing countries and the most vulnerable communities,” the letter reads.

Late last year, international delegates met in Qatar to hash out a climate change deal. The negotiations broke down as delegates fought over how much funding would be taken from wealthy countries to give to poor countries to mitigate climate change.

The Kyoto Protocol — an international agreement to lower emissions in rich countries — was extended, but several key participants — Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Russia — opted out because the agreement didn’t restrict emissions from rapidly developing countries like China and India.

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