The pipeline is intended to ship upwards of 830,000 barrels of tar-sands crude a day for a 40-year lifespan. The pipeline will add 120-200 million tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent to the atmosphere annually, with a lifetime footprint of 6 to 8 billion tons CO2e. That’s as much greenhouse pollution as 40 to 50 average U.S. coal-fired power plants. Furthermore the Keystone XL pipeline is recognized by the tar-sands industry as a key spigot for the future development of the Alberta tar sands, which would emit 840 billion tons CO2e if fully exploited.
Interviewing Washington insiders who have offered various forms of support for the Keystone XL project, Davenport claims instead that “Keystone’s political symbolism vastly outweighs its policy substance.” To support the claim, Davenport then erroneously underestimates the global warming footprint of the pipeline by a factor of ten. Davenport’s crucial error is to contrast the actual carbon footprint of existing fossil-fuel projects — such as US electric power plants (2.8 billion tons) and tailpipe emissions (1.9 billion) — to the impact of the pipeline’s oil being dirtier than traditional petroleum, without explaining that she was switching measurements:
Consider the numbers: In 2011, the most recent year for which comprehensive international data is available, the global economy emitted 32.6 billion metric tons of carbon [dioxide] pollution. The United States was responsible for 5.5 billion tons of that (coming in second to China, which emitted 8.7 billion tons). Within the United States, electric power plants produced 2.8 billion tons of those greenhouse gases, while vehicle tailpipe emissions from burning gasoline produced 1.9 billion tons.
By comparison, the oil that would move through the Keystone pipeline would add 18.7 million metric tons of carbon [dioxide] to the atmosphere annually, the E.P.A. estimated.
[There are two side errors in the passage: Davenport uses “tons of carbon” where she means “tons of carbon dioxide equivalent”. One ton of carbon is the equivalent of 3.67 tons of carbon dioxide. All of her numbers refer to tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent. Secondly, the estimate was not made by the E.P.A. but by a State Department contractor hired by TransCanada; the E.P.A. cited that analysis but did not make the calculations.]
What the oil-industry contractor for the State Department actually calculated is that the oil that would move through the Keystone pipeline would add 147-168 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere annually, 1.3 to 27.4 million of which (central estimate 18.7 million from the draft assessment) are because tar-sands crude is dirtier than other petroleum sources. Those 18.7 million tons are the “incremental” or “additional” footprint of the pipeline, not the full 160 million-ton footprint.
Based on this order-of-magnitude measurement-switching error, Davenport incorrectly concludes that “the carbon emissions produced by oil that would be moved in the Keystone pipeline would amount to less than 1 percent of United States greenhouse gas emissions, and an infinitesimal slice of the global total.”
In fact, the carbon dioxide emissions produced by oil that would be moved in this single pipeline would amount to 3 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and half a percent of the global carbon footprint. Only thirty-two countries have larger annual footprints than this single tar-sands project.
Climate scientist John Abraham made this point in The Guardian last week. “People who think Keystone is a minor issue don’t understand science and they sure don’t understand economics,” he wrote.
Putting aside any possible political and economic motivations to support the intentions of the global petroleum industry, the intellectual failure rests on an obvious error made subtle through convolution.
Whether one is looking at actual or incremental footprints of carbon-infrastructure projects, the results should be equivalent from a policy standpoint, although the numbers would be different. Why, then, does the incremental analysis used by the EPA and the State Department’s oil-industry contractors appear to give the absurd result that the Keystone XL impact is “infinitesimal”?
The methodology of incremental footprint analysis assumes a baseline of future projected carbon pollution, and then looks whether a given project would increase or decrease the baseline. The validity of incremental-footprint analysis thus depends on the baseline.
In line with scientific warnings, President Barack Obama and the U.S. State Department have committed to limiting global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. In the International Energy Agency’s 2°C scenario, global oil consumption would fall by 50 percent from current levels by 2050, within the intended operating lifetime of the Keystone XL pipeline.
The Keystone XL final environmental impact statement instead assumes that global oil demand will increase over that time period. The baseline used is the Energy Information Administration’s 2013 Annual Energy Outlook, which projects that global oil consumption will increase by 30 to 40 percent by 2040. In that scenario, the world would be on a pathway for rapid and catastrophic global warming of 4 to 6°C (or greater) by 2100.
No matter the analysis, the Keystone XL pipeline is incompatible with climate security. The global-warming impact of constructing Keystone XL is only “infinitesimal” if you assume catastrophic global warming is inevitable and that the signed climate pledges of the United States government are worthless.
Perhaps Ms. Davenport should ask Levi, Book, Bordoff, Morris, and Goldwyn if that is their assumption.
Update May 2: The Times has posted a correction:
Correction: May 2, 2014
An article and an accompanying chart on April 22 comparing the projected Keystone XL pipeline with other sources of carbon emissions referred imprecisely to projected emissions from tar-sands oil moving through the pipeline. Producing and burning that oil would emit 18.7 million more metric tons annually than would conventional oil, or far less than 1 percent of United States emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The tar-sands oil would not emit 18.7 million tons total, but about 150 million tons, or less than 3 percent of United States emissions.
The correction itself is in error; the estimate of 18.7 million metric tons is not from the E.P.A., but is from the draft assessment prepared by TransCanada contractor Environmental Resources Management for the State Department.
In a letter to the Harvard University community, president Drew Faust has announced the globally influential institution’s endowment will commit to sustainable investment practices. Harvard University has become the first educational institution to become a signatory to the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Investment, and to the Carbon Disclosure Project’s climate program.
After increasing pressure from students, faculty, and alumni in support of the climate divestment movement, Faust reversed her previous stance opposing action, recognizing that the “special obligation and accountability to the future” held by Harvard requires action not just in research and policy but also “as a long-term investor.”
Harvard’s actions should not be interpreted as explicit acceptance of the principle that sustainable investment requires divestment from the fossil-fuel industry. However, looking at the “systemic risks presented by or created by companies” is part of the Principles of Responsible of Investment. Faust has now applied that assessment to the fossil-fuel industry, saying that the Harvard community “must devote ourselves to enabling and accelerating that transition” — “to chart the path from societies and economies fundamentally dependent on fossil fuels to a system of sustainable and renewable energy.”
The full text of the announcement letter is below:
Tony Strickland, Republican Candidate for California's 20th District, Believes Global Warming a 'Hoax'
Former California state senator Tony Strickland, vying for the Republican nomination to unseat Democratic Rep. Sam Farr in California’s 20th district, rejects the science of manmade global warming. Speaking at a candidate forum at the University of Southern California on Wednesday, Strickland told students that “there are a lot of scientists that say it’s a hoax.”
When I was a kid it was global cooling — I got a little older and it’s called global warming, and now it’s called climate change. The problem with that is scientists will be on both sides. There are a lot of scientists that say it’s a hoax.
In reality, the carbon-dioxide greenhouse effect is a physical fact known since the 1800s. The only scientifically plausible systematic explanation for the rapid and continuing warming of the planetary climate since 1950 is industrial greenhouse pollution. The world’s national scientific societies and the world’s practicing climate scientists are in overwhelming agreement about this fact.
Strickland’s primary opponent, former Assemblyman and USC visiting fellow Anthony Portantino, also does not seem to understand the science of global warming. “It is hotter in places where it used to be cooler and is it cooler in places where it used to be hotter,” he was quoted as saying by the USC Daily Trojan.
Portantino is incorrect. Although there are regional variations in global warming, there is almost nowhere on the planet that is cooler than it was in the middle of the 20th century.
At Science Hearing, Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) Expresses Confusion on Global Warming and Scientific Method
At today’s Science Committee hearing to review the President’s proposed science budget, freshman member Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) dismissed climate science before expressing his support for the Keystone XL pipeline, which terminates in his district.
“You scientists start with what they call a postulate or theory and you work forward from that direction, is that right?” Weber asked White House Science Advisor John Holdren, before jesting about the science of manmade global warming.
I was wondering how that related to like, for example, global warming and eventually global cooling. I may want to get your cell phone number because if we do go through a couple of cycles, global warming and then back to global cooling, I need to know when to buy my long coat on sale. You know, so I just don’t know how y’all prove those hypotheses going back fifty, hundred, you know, what you might say is thousands or if not even millions of years and then postulate those forward.
According to Center for Responsive Politics data, Weber has received $45,000 from the energy sector in campaign contributions, the vast majority — $39,000 — coming from the oil and gas industry. Koch Industries has contributed $10,000 to his campaign coffers.
Despite Environmental Endorsements, Sen. Susan Collins Has Spotty Record on Confronting Climate Change
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), facing reelection this year in a strongly Democratic state, has garnered the support of national environmental organizations despite a conflicted record on climate policy. In September 2013, the League of Conservation Voters launched an ad campaign praising Collins’ “environmental leadership.” A new advertisement from the Environmental Defense Fund and Moms Clean Air Force praises Collins for “confronting climate change” in marked contrast to the majority of her Republican colleagues. The organizations have not formally endorsed a candidate in the rate.
The EDF ad cites Collins’ vote on “S. Amdt 359 to SCon Res 8, Roll Call #76, 3/22/13.” That day Collins broke with the Republican caucus to vote against an amendment introduced by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) prohibiting further greenhouse gas regulations for the purposes of addressing climate change.
She cast a similar vote on April 6, 2011, when she broke the Republican ranks to vote against the McConnell amendment prohibiting EPA regulation of greenhouse gases.
On December 11, 2009, Collins and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) introduced climate legislation (S. 2877) in competition with Kerry-Boxer (S. 1733), the Senate version of the Waxman-Markey bill. Cantwell-Collins offered a simpler cap-and-trade system and weaker emissions targets than Kerry-Boxer.
However, a broader review of her voting record finds that Collins repeatedly acted to help Republicans prevent the passage of climate legislation during the Obama presidency and to weaken executive action on climate rules:
- On April 1, 2009, Collins allied with Republicans and conservative Democrats in key votes to preserve the ability of Republicans to filibuster climate legislation during Obama’s first term. She voted against non-filibusterable budget reconciliation for green economy legislation, if “the Senate finds that public health, the economy and national security of the United States are jeopardized by inaction on global warming” (Roll Call Vote #125). She then voted to prohibit the use of reconciliation in the Senate for climate change legislation involving a cap and trade system (Roll Call #126. She voted for Sen. Kit Bond’s amendment establishing a point of order against climate change or similar legislation that would increase federal revenues (Roll Call #142).
These votes arguably made the future demise of climate legislation in the Senate inevitable, in contrast to health care legislation, which became law through the reconciliation process despite unified Republican opposition.
- On April 6, 2011, Collins voted for Rockefeller’s bill to delay greenhouse-gas regulations for two years (Roll Call #53).
- On March 21 and 22, 2013, Collins voted for Sen. Roy Blunt’s amendment to create a point of order against legislation that would create a federal tax or fee on carbon emissions (Roll Call #59) and against Sen. Whitehouse’s amendment that would support the creation of a carbon fee (Roll Call #58).
Moreover, Collins has been a consistent supporter of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, voting that “that no additional safety or environmental analysis of the pipeline was necessary” in 2012 (Roll Call #34) and in 2013 (Roll Call #61). Collins is also “the only member of Maine’s congressional delegation that has not called upon the State Department to do a full environmental review” of the possibility of the Portland Montreal Pipeline being used to carry tar sands crude, as the Canadian government opens the route from Alberta to Quebec for the carbon-intensive fossil fuel.
Although Collins has expressed a desire for “limiting the worst effects of climate change,” when the opportunity has come to display true climate leadership, she has supported her caucus instead more often than not.
At today’s Science Committee hearing to review the President’s proposed science budget, Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) dismissed human influence on the climate. “We’ve had climate change since the day the earth was formed, whenever that was, depending on whatever it is you believe,” he said with a nod to young-earth creationists, “and we’ll have climate change until the earth implodes, whenever that is.”
Posey questioned White House Science Advisor John Holdren in depth, clearly skeptical that there could be both natural climate changes over the billions of years the earth has existed and human-induced climate change.
Obviously we’ve had global warming for a long time. You can’t have one seamless ice age that encompasses three ice ages. We had to have warming periods between each of those. And so that is a natural phenomenon. Just because we’re alive now, the tectonics plate shifts aren’t going to stop, the hurricanes tsunamis aren’t going to stop, the asteroid strikes aren’t going to stop, they’ve been going on for eons and they’re going to continue to go on for eons.
“The difference between the circumstances you’re describing and the circumstance we’re in now is the changes imposed on the climate in large part due to human activity are faster than the ability of ecosystems to adapt,” Dr. Holdren responded, “and maybe even more importantly, faster than the ability of human society to adapt.”
“There are a lot of stresses, as you point out, we can’t control, but the stresses we can control that are placing burdens on our society we ought to think about controlling,” Holdren continued.
“No doubt about that,” Posey quickly interjected before challenging Holdren on how much of present-day climate change is due to human behavior.
“The natural changes, which we understand, and which are underway on a long term basis as we speak, would be if they were the only influences, be cooling the planet rather than warming it,” Holdren replied. “We would be in a long-term cooling trend as a result of the natural forces affecting climate which we understand. We are instead in a warming trend which suggests that human activity is overwhelmingly responsible for the difference. We would be having cooling based on natural forces, we’re having warming.”
Interrupting Holdren, Posey latched on to the mention of “cooling” to make a stammering joke about global cooling and Al Gore. “I remember the ‘70s,” he said. “That was the threat, we’re going to have a cooling that’s going to eventually freeze the planet. And that was the fear before Gore intervented—invented the Internet, you know, or uh, the other terms.”
Posey, who represents the coastal Florida district that includes the Kennedy Space Center, had previously expressed similar views on ice ages and global warming in a 2011 interview with conservative activist Victoria Jackson.
A few months after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) rejected the scientific fact of anthropogenic global warming. He made remarks rejecting the linkage between human activity and changes in weather at a Heritage Foundation “Conversations with Conversatives” event on January 22, 2013. Questioned by Heritage’s Rob Bluey, Massie said he took “offense” at President Obama’s remarks on climate change in the 2013 State of the Union address.
I was disappointed to see him blame the droughts on human activity and then to say that we’re denying the evidence of scientists. As someone with a science-type background, I took offense at that. I would challenge him to show us the linkage, the undeniable linkage, between the droughts and the change in weather, and human activity.
“Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend,” Obama said in his address. “But the fact is the twelve hottest years on record have all come in the last fifteen. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods — all are now more frequent and more intense. 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.”
Obama’s words were scientifically well-founded. In August 2010, the World Meteorological Organization issued a statement on the “unprecedented sequence of extreme weather events” that “matches Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections of more frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to global warming.” Climate scientists have concluded that “[m]any lines of evidence — statistical analysis of observed data, climate modelling and physical reasoning — strongly indicate that some types of extreme event, most notably heatwaves and precipitation extremes, will greatly increase in a warming climate and have already done so.”
Massie’s “science-type background” refers to his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change has a helpful FAQ on climate science which provides answers to Rep. Massie’s questions, such as, “Are extreme events, like heat waves, droughts or floods, expected to change as the Earth’s climate changes?” The answer: “Yes.”According to the Program of Atmosphere, Oceans, and Climate in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT, which studies the “substantial human interference of the climate system”:
- “Over the past 200 years or so, humans have altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere and oceans.”
- “There’s clear evidence that greenhouse gases have been increasing by very large amounts since preindustrial times, and the vast majority of these increases are due to human activity.”
- “Current concerns about future climate change are driven in large part by the observational evidence that several long-lived greenhouse gases are increasing at significant rates.”
- “Climate models suggest that both global mean precipitation and the intensity of precipitation extremes will increase in a warmer climate.”
- “The total amount and distribution of water in the atmosphere is very sensitive to temperature such that global warming is expected to lead to substantial changes in all aspects of the water cycle.”
- “Anthropogenic factors are likely responsible for long-term trends in tropical Atlantic warmth and tropical cyclone activity.”
Massie is a freshman member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. He has received $87451 in campaign contributions from the energy industry, including $34,451 from the oil and gas industry, of which $12,000 is from Koch Industries.
Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) rejects the scientific fact of anthropogenic global warming. In a December 2011 interview uncovered by Hill Heat, Posey told conservative activist Victoria Jackson that climate change has nothing to do with human activity:
If we’ve had at least three ice ages, and some people, some scientists say five, you cannot have five seamless ice ages. You must warm up between, you know, to have them. The earth has had tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions tectonic plate shifts, meteor strikes, asteroid strikes, for millions of years, and it’s not going to stop just because we’re here now. When you think back twenty years ago, the worry was global freezing. “We’re going to freeze again. We’re going to have another ice age.”
In reality, the carbon-dioxide greenhouse effect is a physical fact known since the 1800s. The only scientifically plausible systematic explanation for the rapid and continuing warming of the planetary climate since 1950 is industrial greenhouse pollution. Paleoclimatologists have identified at least five major ice ages in the past 2.5 billion years of Earth’s history. We are currently in an interglacial period within the Quarternary or Pleistoscene ice age, defined by the permanent Antarctic ice sheet which formed 2.58 million years ago. There have been eight cycles of glaciation and retreat in the past 740,000 years. Levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to industrial pollution are at levels not seen in the past 740,000 years, and likely not seen at any point during the current ice age. WIthout global policy to end the combustion of fossil fuels, concentrations are expected to double from current levels within decades.
Posey, elected to Congress in 2008, is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. He has received $33,700 from the energy sector including $19,900 in lifetime political contributions from the oil and gas industry. His district includes the NASA Kennedy Space Center, Eastern Florida State College, and the Florida Institute of Technology.
Roger Pielke Jr, the political scientist recently hired by Nate Silver’s new FiveThirtyEight “data journalism” venture, has a long record of harsh criticisms of the climate science community, impugning the motives, ethics, and honesty of climate scientists and communicators. Here is a small sampling of such remarks.
I have Tweeted that undisclosed [conflict of interest] is endemic in scientific publishing. . . The 53 authors include (for example) Joe Romm, Hal Harvey and Amory Lovins each of whom had massive undisclosed financial COI (obviously and easily documented) associated with renewable energy and political advocacy. . . . If COI disclosure is a good idea, and I think that it is, then it should be applied consistently across academic publishing and testimony, rather than being used as a selectively applied political bludgeon by campaigning journalists and politicians seeking to delegitimize certian [sic] academics whose work they do not like. [2/25/15]
John Holdren’s Epic Fail: To accuse an academic of holding views that lie outside the scientific mainstream is the sort of delegitimizing talk that is of course common on blogs in the climate wars. But it is rare for political appointee in any capacity — the president’s science advisor no less — to accuse an individual academic of holding views are are not simply wrong, but in fact scientifically illegitimate. . . In a nutshell, Holdren’s response is sloppy and reflects extremely poorly on him. [3/1/14]
When the White House publishes an error-strewn 6-pg attack on you, should you feel (a) flattered, (b) intimidated, (c) happy to have tenure? [3/1/14]
Climate activists warn that the inhabitants of poor countries are especially vulnerable to the future climate changes that our greenhouse gas emissions will cause. Why then, do they simultaneously promote the green imperialism that helps lock in the poverty that makes these countries so vulnerable? [Financial Times, 2/26/14]
Of course, there are scientists willing to go beyond what can be supported empirically to make claims at odds with the overwhelming scientific consensus on this subject—e.g., [Michael] Mann, [Jennifer] Francis, [Jeff] Masters are always good for inscrutable and unsupportable quotes. [11/11/13]
The IPCC implied that increasing temperatures were causing increasing disaster losses. And the scientific literature just doesn’t support that. [NPR, 9/24/13]
Will be interesting to see if anyone on the side of climate action will care that Obama’s plan begins w/ false claims about disaster trends [6/25/13]
Misleading public claims. An over-hyped press release. A paper which neglects to include materially relevant and contradictory information central to its core argument. All in all, just a normal day in climate science! [4/10/13]
Fixing the Marcott Mess in Climate Science: [H]ere I document the gross misrepresentation of the findings of a recent scientific paper via press release which appears to skirt awfully close to crossing the line into research misconduct, as defined by the NRC. The paper I refer to is by Marcott et al. 2013, published recently in Science. . . . Does the public misrepresentation amount to scientific misconduct? I’m not sure, but it is far too close to that line for comfort. Saying so typically leads to a torrent of angry ad hominem and defensive attacks, and evokes little in the way of actual concern for the integrity of this highly politicized area of science. . . . There are a few bad eggs, with the Real Climate mafia being among them, who are exploiting climate science for personal and political gain. Makes the whole effort look bad. [3/31/13]
Unfortunately, as is so often a case when leaders in the climate science community find themselves before an audience of policy makers, on extreme events they go rogue, saying all sorts of things with little or no scientific basis. . . . [AMS President J. Marshall] Shepherd seems a great guy, and he has a fantastic demeanor on Twitter. But I’m sorry, this is horsemeat. . . . As President of the AMS Shepherd does not have the luxury of using that platform to share his personal opinions on climate science that may diverge from that of the community which he represents, much less stretch or misrepresent broader findings. . . . In formal settings such as the briefing yesterday where experts meet politicians, I fully expect Democrats and Republicans to cherrypick experts convenient to the arguments they wish to see made. That is politics as usual. Leading scientific institutions play that same game with some considerable risk to their credibility. [2/15/13]
Extreme Misrepresentation: USGCRP and the Case of Floods: Questions should (but probably won’t) be asked about how a major scientific assessment has apparently became captured as a tool of advocacy via misrepresentation of the scientific literature—a phenomena that occurs repeatedly in the area of extreme events. . . . Given the strength of the science on this subject, the USGCRP must have gone to some effort to mischaracterize it by 180 degrees. . . . [G]iven the problematic and well-documented treatment of extremes in earlier IPCC and US government reports, I’d think that the science community would have its act together by now and stop playing such games. So while many advocates in science and the media shout “Alarm” and celebrate its depiction of extremes, another question we should be asking is, how is it that it got things so wrong? [1/15/13]
How does a draft of the most authoritative US climate assessment get floods 100% wrong, contrary to IPCC and sci lt? [1/15/13]
In fact, today’s climate models suggest that future changes in extremes that cause the most damage won’t be detectable in the statistics of weather (or damage) for many decades.
This claim is false, even under Pielke’s terms. Pielke defines “extremes that cause the most damage” as “floods, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes,” excluding “heat waves and intense precipitation,” because “these phenomena are not significant drivers of disaster costs.” (That exclusion is made without a supporting reference.)In fact, climate models, checked against observations, have already detected changes in the most damaging extremes in the statistics of weather, even under Pielke’s carefully chosen terms:
- Anthropogenic greenhouse gas contribution to flood risk in England and Wales in autumn 2000, Pall et al, Nature 2011
- Atlantic hurricanes and natural variability in 2005, Trenberth and Shea, Geophysical Research Letters 2006
- Global warming increases flood risk in mountainous areas, Allamano, Claps, and Laio, Geophysical Research Letters, 2009
- Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models, Dai, Nature Climate Change 2012
Given a sensible policy toward risk, that uncertainty should increase our concern about the continued pollution of our weather system, not decrease it.