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Climate Scientists and Deniers Debate Keystone XL on The Ed Show

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If you missed footage from the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee's hearing on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline—and the accompanying testimonies that ranged from enlightening to erroneous—a widely viewed MSNBC talk show provided the footage Thursday.

The Ed Show's opening segment containing hearing excerpts from the likes of Dr. James Hansen and Karen Alderman Harbert, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, exemplify the varying opinions on the pipeline and climate change.

By the 11-minute, 40-second-mark, host Ed Schultz brings in Earth scientist and former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Mark Fulton, an author of Carbon Tracker Initiative's report released Thursday in response to the State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the massive pipeline. 

Given recent findings about tar sands, both men wondered how Keystone XL could possibly be approved. However, Schweitzer reminded viewers that the fight for cleaner air should not revolve around Keystone XL—he spoke about 81 other pipelines, most of which are already carrying oil sands from Canada to the U.S., as well as a few others that are in the works that involve Thunder Bay, Canada, the Great Lakes and more.

"There's 2.2 trillion barrels that are stored in Canada, the largest deposit of oil on the planet. It's going to be developed, whether we bring (Keystone XL) across Nebraska, or it's rail or barges, as long as we're using oil in this country, we're either going to import it from Canada, Saudi Arabia or Venezuela," Schweitzer said.

"I believe that methane and carbon dioxide and the emissions that humans are using these hydrocarbons, whether it's coal or whether it's clean or natural gas, we're creating a climate change," Schweitzer continued. "We're not going to leave the hydrocarbon era tomorrow. The sooner we move with a carbon tax, the sooner we move with electric cars, the sooner we move with cleaner and better energy, the sooner we're going to decrease the risk to our planet.

"But it isn't just the Keystone Pipeline that is going to be the line in the sand."

Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.

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Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

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