There’s only one right answer on Keystone XL: NO

— OpEd by Bernie Sanders, Candidate for U.S. President and sitting Senator from VT

Climate change is an unprecedented planetary emergency. If we don’t act aggressively now to combat it, there will be major and painful consequences in store later: rising oceans that inundate coastal areas, bigger superstorms like Hurricane Sandy, worsening droughts, out-of-control wildfires, historic floods that come year after year, rising food prices, and millions of people displaced by climate disasters. It’s not a future any of us wants to imagine.

But despite how difficult the problem is, the basics of how we should respond to it are actually not that complicated: we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and move to 100 percent renewable energy — and we need to act immediately.

That’s why I cannot understand why some Democratic presidential candidates have refused to take a stand against the Keystone XL Pipeline. Keystone XL would transport millions of gallons of some of the dirtiest oil on the planet — oil that scientists tell us we simply cannot burn if we want to stop the worst impacts of climate change. As former NASA scientist James Hansen has said, building Keystone XL would mean “game over” for the climate.

A decision on Keystone XL could come at any moment, and that’s why it’s so important you make your voice heard through our campaign today.

It’s no big surprise that in recent years, most major Republican politicians have chosen to deny that climate change even exists. Republicans in Congress have collectively received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests who directly profit from stonewalling action on climate, at the expense of the climate and of humanity. Politicians who deny climate change is real, despite an overwhelming scientific consensus, are as morally bankrupt as those who helped Big Tobacco conceal the truth about the health effects of smoking, evading responsibility for years.

But in some ways, it’s even more disappointing to see Democratic politicians, who understand that climate change is real and profess to care about action on climate, equivocate on an issue as clear-cut as Keystone XL.

A study released by the scientific journal Nature just a few months ago found that if we want to keep global warming below the internationally agreed-upon safe upper limit of two degrees Celsius, we need to reduce all production of the Canadian tar sands — the kind of oil that Keystone XL would transport — to “negligible” levels. In other words, there is simply no scenario where we can address climate change in a real way and also allow this pipeline to go forward.

Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline is not the only thing we must do to address climate change. Ultimately, we need to leave all fossil fuels in the ground and move to a 100 percent renewable energy economy.

That’s why I also oppose oil drilling in the Arctic, support the fossil fuel divestment movement, and have sponsored legislation in Congress to bring solar energy to ten million rooftops in America. As a result of these positions, and my long record in support of the environment, I was recently honored to receive the endorsement of Friends of the Earth.

To win the important environmental victories we so urgently need, it will take a coordinated grassroots movement fighting to take our country and our climate back from the fossil fuel industry billionaires. It was a grassroots movement — of Nebraska ranchers, Native American communities, and climate change activists — that managed to hold off Keystone XL for years, despite the conventional wisdom that the pipeline was a done deal. I’m proud to have stood with those activists in their fight from the very beginning.

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Anti-Science GOP ‘Eviscerates’ NASA Spending on Climate Change Research

NASA administrator says proposal ‘guts’ crucial  Earth science program and ‘threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate’

Among the critical aspects of NASA’s earth science mission: weather prediction, monitoring ice in the Arctic, and tracking wildfires. (Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/flickr/cc)

Reinforcing the GOP’s reputation as anti-science, Republicans in the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on Thursday voted to slash NASA spending on the branch that studies climate change issues.

According to news reports, the NASA authorization proposal, passed along party lines, would cut between $300-500 million in funding to NASA’s Earth Sciences division, which researches the planet’s natural systems and processes—including climate change, severe weather, and glaciers. The bill will now go to the full House for a vote.

“When you vote for people who publicly and loudly spout nonsense about science, and go against the overwhelming 97 percent consensus among climate scientists, what do you expect?”
—Phil Plait, Slate

As Ars Technica notes, “This vote follows the committee’s decision to cut the [National Science Foundation]’s geoscience budget and comes after a prominent attack on NASA’s Earth sciences work during a Senate hearing, all of which suggests a concerted campaign against the researchers who, among other things, are telling us that climate change is a reality.”

Unsurprisingly, NASA pushed back against this latest attempt to stymie climate research.

In a statement released Thursday, the space agency’s administrator Charles Bolden saidthe proposal “guts our Earth science program and threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate, and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events.”

And other scientists added their own criticisms to the mix. In a letter (pdf) to the committee, the head of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) said that group is “extremely concerned” about the funding cuts.

“The research performed and supported by the [NASA] division helps us understand the world we live in and provide a basis for knowledge and understanding of natural hazards, weather forecasting, air quality, and water availability, among other concerns,” wrote AGU executive director Christine W. McEntee. “The applicability of these missions cannot be overstated given their impact on your constituents.”

Astronomer and journalist Phil Plait, writing at Slate, agreed that “the evisceration of Earth sciences means this bill is seriously, critically flawed.” But, Plait said, U.S. voters only have themselves to blame for such short-sighted policy decisions:

When you vote for people who publicly and loudly spout nonsense about science, and go against the overwhelming 97 percent consensus among climate scientists, what do you expect?

We sowed this Congress, and this is what we reap. Potentially huge cuts to critical science, care of the GOP. Remember that in November 2016.

Several Democratic lawmakers have also expressed their opposition to the spending cuts.

In an op-ed published this week at The Hill, U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), the House committee’s ranking member, wrote:

In addition to other problems in the bill, it cuts earth science funding by more than $320 million. Earth science, of course, includes climate science. Despite the fact that in January NASA announced 2014 was likely the warmest year since 1880, it should come as no surprise that the majority wants to cut funding for climate science. Embarrassingly, just last week, every single Republican member of this committee present voted against the notion that climate change might be caused by people.

Of course, there would be implications beyond a potential dearth of climate research.

In an analysis published Friday at the Washington Post, Dr. Marshall Shepherd, professor of atmospheric sciences and geography at the University of Georgia and 2013 president of the American Meteorological Society, wrote:

As the former deputy project scientist for the Global Precipitation Measurement mission, I assure you that the level of cuts proposed for NASA’s earth sciences  program would not only harm but end many programs and jeopardize many federal and private sector jobs. The engineering, ground systems, science, and support work of NASA earth science missions is supported by some of the most vibrant private aerospace and science-technology companies in the world.  And they are U.S. companies.

“More importantly,” Shepherd continued, “none of us has a ‘vacation planet’ we can go to for the weekend, so I argue that NASA’s mission to study planet Earth should be a ‘no-brainer’.”


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