Senate Fast-Tracks Keystone Pipeline, Fails to Extend Renewable Energy Tax Credit
In approving a payroll tax cut extension plan in an 89-10 vote on Saturday, the U.S. Senate included a provision that requires President Obama to make a decision within 60 days on whether to move forward with the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project. To make it even worse, the vote failed to include the Production Tax Credit that allows companies who invest in renewable energy to receive a grant in lieu of a tax credit, and cut the budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by $8.4 billion, a 6 percent cut from the president’s request.
If the American people understood the implications of yesterday’s vote, where the majority of our elected officials are willing to continue to lead our country down a detrimental path in support of extreme energy extraction and refuse to support investment in renewable energy, we would have hundreds of thousands of people protesting in the streets in every state of our great nation.
Republicans rallied behind the Keystone XL inclusion in the bill, saying they wouldn't vote for any payroll extension without the provision. Earlier this month, Obama issued a veto threat if the Keystone XL provision was tied to the payroll tax cut, but the White House recently said they would accept the wording of the provision that passed Dec. 17.
The bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives for final passage for a vote most likely on Monday. If the House passes the bill, it will be sent to Obama for his signature.
For the last six months, Bill McKibben and the folks at 350.org, Tar Sands Action and many other grassroots environmental organizations and activists, have been working day and night to educate Americans about the injustice this pipeline would bring to our country.
From exposing the inflated numbers of jobs proponents of this project are claiming it will create; to explaining the issues related with this energy intensive, extremely corrosive tar sands oil that highly paid politicians from the oil and gas industry want to pipe nearly 2,000 miles from Alberta, Canada to Texas port to be shipped overseas; to the impact the pipeline eruptions will have on the rivers, streams and aquifers of America's heartland; to highlighting the environmental injustice concerns to nearly a dozen tribal nations in Canada and the U.S., people who understand the long-term impacts of building this pipeline will continue to do whatever is necessary to save our democracy, slow the impacts of global warming and protect our natural resources.
For too long we’ve needed to create an energy policy that eliminates our need for foreign oil; mandates the transition to relying on cleaner, renewable sources of energy, and supports the necessary infrastructure, and research and development that is needed to lead us on a path toward a sustainable energy system. There’s no doubt these issues are complex, however solutions are available. But we need to stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry, that continues to show record profits at the expense of the American people, and get money out of politics so our elected officials can’t be bought by corporations.
I encourage those who are already involved with these issues to not give up and keep working to educate your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Those who are just learning about these concerns, stay connected with EcoWatch.org to learn how you can get involved.
As Bill McKibben says, “All eyes are on Obama,” so lets be sure he know how you feel about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. You can reach Obama’s office on weekdays by calling 202-456-1111 or email him through the white house comment page, asking him to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline project. Your voice truly matters, so take action today.
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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