95 Scientists and Economists Call on Obama to Veto Keystone XL Pipeline Bill
Yesterday, 95 scientists and economists released a letter urging President Obama and Secretary Kerry to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, calling it a "step in the wrong direction" if the Obama administration is serious about addressing climate change. The letter draws upon comments President Obama made at Georgetown University in June 2013 when he stated, "allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation's interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution." As the scientists and economists confirm in the letter, "...now more than ever, evidence shows that Keystone XL will significantly contribute to climate change."
As the letter explains:
"[T]he [pipeline's] potential incremental annual emissions of 27.4 MMTCO 2e is more than the emissions that seven coal-fired power plants emit in one year. And over the 50-year expected lifespan of the pipeline, the total emissions from Keystone XL could amount to as much as 8.4 billion metric tons CO2e. These are emissions that can and should be avoided with a transition to clean energy."
Furthermore, "[a]s the main pathway for tar sands to reach overseas markets, the Keystone XL pipeline would cause a sizable expansion of tar sands production and also an increase in the related greenhouse gas production." Given that tar sands produce more greenhouse gas emissions over their life cycle than conventional oils, any expansion of the tar sands would be detrimental to efforts to stave off the worst of the climate change scenarios.
The letter released yesterday follows up from an April 2014 letter from scientists and economists that also articulated Keystone XL's detrimental impact on climate change mitigation. That letter, like this one, called on Obama and Kerry to reject the project. Since last April, the case for rejection has only strengthened.
In January, the Nebraska Supreme Court's decision confirmed the pipeline's planned route, which re-initiated the State Department's National Interest Determination process. In this process, the State Department, in consultation with eight other agencies, considers factors like environmental concerns, foreign policy, and cultural impacts to determine whether the proposed project is in the national interest. In its comments to the State Department released last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wrote that tar sands is far more fossil fuel intensive than conventional oil and that, given low oil prices, there would likely be no economically viable alternative means for transporting tar sands to the U.S. Once the State Department makes its determination, Secretary Kerry will recommend his decision to President Obama. Obama will then make the final decision on whether Keystone XL should be rejected or approved.
In addition, since the April letter, oil prices have plummeted, making Keystone XL's potential impact on climate change even more pronounced. As the EPA noted in its commentary, the transportation of tar sands by rail is not an inevitable, or possibly not even a feasible, alternative to a pipeline. As the State Department concluded in its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), were oil prices to fall to between $65 and $75 a barrel, the fact that rail transport is more expensive "could have a substantial impact on oil sands production levels—possibly in excess of the capacity of the proposed project."Currently oil prices are between $50 and $60 per barrel.
Nevertheless, even were oil prices to rebound, the signatories of today's letter state, Keystone XL would still have a substantial negative impact on global climate change.
The slew of prominent scientists and economists from across the U.S. and Canada who stress Keystone XL's implications for climate change include Nobel laureates, fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS), fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, and, yes, Bill Nye. The following is a small sample of the signatories:
- Dr. Philip W. Anderson, who won the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physics alongside Sir Nevill Francis Mott and John Hasbrouck van Vleck. They won the prize "for their fundamental theoretical investigations of the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems."
- Dr. Kenneth J. Arrow, who won the 1972 Nobel Prize in Economics alongside John Hicks "for their pioneering contributions to general economic equilibrium theory and welfare theory." Dr. Arrow also received the National Medal of Science in 2004—the nation's highest scientific honor—for his contributions to the field of economics and has served as a convening lead author for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments.
- Numerous lead authors and coordinating lead authors for United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment reports.
- Fellows of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) including Dr. James McCarthy, Dr. Richard Norgaard, and Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, and Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC) including Dr. Mark Jaccard and Dr. Lawrence Dill.
- Winners of Heinz Awards in the Environment, and in the Human Condition—including Dr. Gretchen Daily, Drs. Paul and Anne Ehrlich, Dr. George Woodwell, Dr. James Hansen, and Dr. Michael Oppenheimer.
- Winners of the Volvo Environment Prize, which is awarded for "Outstanding innovations or scientific discoveries," including Dr. Paul Ehrlich, who won it jointly with John Holdren (now President Obama's senior advisor on science and technology issues) in 1993; Dr. George Woodwell (2001), and Gretchen Daily (2012).
- Dr. David Keith, 2006 winner of Canadian Geographic's "Environmentalist of the Year"—who is both a Harvard Professor and President of a Calgary, Alberta company that works on ways to capture carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere.
This letter further confirms the growing evidence that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be an environmental catastrophe. If President Obama and Secretary Kerry are serious about addressing climate change, they should take the letter's warnings to heart and lay the issue of Keystone XL to rest by rejecting the project.
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Fertility issues are on the rise, and new literature points to ways that your environment may be part of the problem. We've rounded up some changes you can make in your life to promote a healthy reproductive system.
Infertility and Environmental Health: The Facts<ul> <li>Sperm count is declining steeply, significantly, and continuously in Western countries, with no signs of tapering off. Erectile dysfunction is on the rise, and women are facing increasing rates of miscarriage and difficulty conceiving.</li><li>Why? A huge factor is our environmental health. Hormones (particularly testosterone and estrogen) are what make reproductive function possible, and our hormones are increasingly being negatively affected by harmful, endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonplace in the modern world—in our homes, foods, and lifestyles.</li></ul>
What You Can Do About It<p>It should be noted that infertility can be caused by any number of factors, including medical conditions that cannot be solved with a simple change at home.</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are struggling with infertility, our hearts and sympathies are with you. Your pain is validated and we hope you receive answers to your struggles.</em></p><p>Read on to discover our tips to restore or improve reproductive health by removing harmful habits and chemicals from your environment.</p>
Edit Your Health<ul><li>If you smoke, quit! Smoking is toxic, period. If someone in your household smokes, urge them to quit or institute a no-smoking ban in the house. It is just as important to avoid secondhand smoke.</li><li>Maintain a healthy weight. Make sure your caloric intake is right for your body and strive for moderate exercise.</li><li>Eat cleanly! Focus on whole foods and less processed meals and snacks. Studies have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is linked to increased fertility.</li><li>Minimize negative/constant stress—or find ways to manage it. Hobbies such as meditation or yoga that encourage practiced breathing are great options to reduce the physical toll of stress.</li></ul>
Edit Your Home<p>We spend a lot of time in our homes—and care that what we bring into them will not harm us. You may not be aware that many commonly found household items are sources of harmful, endocrine-disrupting compounds. Read on to find steps you can take—and replacements you should make—in your home.</p><p><strong>In the Kitchen</strong></p><ul> <li>Buy organic, fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/clean-grocery-shopping-guide-2648563801.html" target="_blank">Read our grocery shopping guide for more tips about food.</a></li><li>Switch to glass, ceramics, or stainless steel for food storage: plastics often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect fertility. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-pollution-2645493129.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Learn more about the dangers of plastic here.</a></li><li>Ban plastic from the microwave. If you have a plastic splatter cover, use paper towel, parchment paper, or an upside-down plate instead.</li><li>Upgrade your cookware: non-stick may make life easier, but it is made with unsafe chemical compounds that seep into your food. Cast-iron and stainless steel are great alternatives.</li><li>Filter tap water. Glass filter pitchers are an inexpensive solution; if you want to invest you may opt for an under-the-sink filter.</li><li>Check your cleaning products—many mainstream products are full of unsafe chemicals. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check out our guide to safe cleaning products for more info</a>.</li></ul><p><strong>In the Bathroom </strong></p><ul> <li>Check the labels on your bathroom products: <em>fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free</em> and organic labels are all great signs. You can also scan the ingredients lists for red-flag chemicals such as: triclosan, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate. Use the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG Skin Deep database</a> to vet your personal products.</li><li>Ditch the vinyl shower curtain—that new shower curtain smell is chemical-off gassing. Choose a cotton or linen based curtain instead.</li><li>Banish air fresheners—use natural fresheners (an open window, baking soda, essential oils) instead.</li></ul><p><strong>Everywhere Else</strong></p><ul><li>Remove wall-to-wall carpet. If you've been considering wood or tile, here's your sign: many synthetic carpets can emit harmful chemicals for years. If you want a rug, choose wool or plant materials such as jute or sisal.</li><li>Prevent dust build-up. Dust can absorb chemicals in the air and keep them lingering in your home. Vacuum rugs and wipe furniture, trim, windowsills, fans, TVs, etc. Make sure to have a window open while you're cleaning!</li><li>Leave shoes at the door! When you wear your shoes throughout the house, you're tracking in all kinds of chemicals. If you like wearing shoes inside, consider a dedicated pair of "indoor shoes" or slippers.</li><li>Clean out your closet—use cedar chips or lavender sachets instead of mothballs, and use "green" dry-cleaning services over traditional methods. If that isn't possible, let the clothes air out outside or in your garage for a day before putting them back in your closet.</li><li>Say no to plastic bags!</li><li>We asked 22 endocrinologists what products they use - and steer clear of—in their homes. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/nontoxic-products-2648564261.html" target="_blank">Check out their responses here</a>.</li></ul>
Learn More<ul><li>For more information and action steps, be sure to check out <em>Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race</em> by EHS adjunct scientist Shanna Swan, PhD: <a href="https://www.shannaswan.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">available for purchase here.</a></li><li><a href="https://www.ehn.org/st/Subscribe_to_Above_The_Fold" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sign up for our Above the Fold Newsletter </a>to stay up to date about impacts on the environment and your health.</li></ul>
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