US State Dept expects massive climate failure from President Obama, America and world
US Secretary of State John Kerry claims "the United States is committed to doing its part" to fight the "clear and present danger" of the climate crisis.
But a high-profile, eleven-volume, multi-year study from his own department says to expect only rising carbon emissions and broken climate promises from America.
The only future this State Department study expects will occur is one in which:
- America fails to meet President Obama's Copenhagen Accord target
- America emits even more CO2 in 2040 than it does today
- American CO2 levels are consistent with the International Energy Agency's (IEA) scenario for +6C of global warming
The IEA says such a future would be a "catastrophe for all of us." International Monetary Fund (IMF) director has stated bluntly that in a world that hot, "future generations will be roasted, toasted, fried and grilled."
In other words, spectacular American failure. Game over.
As the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) points out, such a high-profile expectation of climate failure from Secretary Kerry's own department is likely to "undermine the nation's credibility" in its high-stakes international negotiations to prevent a full blown climate crisis.
Can Secretary Kerry convince other nations that America will cut climate pollution when his own State Department expects only failure?
What is the official expectation at State? Who is making these decisions?
I've tried for over a week to get some basic answers from the State Department about their study's grim climate expectations. I've been told my questions were sent to the "technical staff" but so far no answers, and no response to my follow-up email.
Keystone XL and climate failure
The State Department's study that expects abject American climate failure is their Keystone XL Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).
The grim prognosis of broken climate promises and rising US emissions is hiding in plain sight in one of the most famous passages from the report -- one that has been regularly quoted worldwide by politicians and major media. Here it is:
[Keystone XL] is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas (based on expected oil prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs, and supply-demand scenarios).
Proponents of Keystone XL regularly quote the first part:
[Keystone XL] is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas
The bombshell about expected climate failure is in the second part: expected prices, costs and supply-demand scenario.
As my chart on the right shows (click to view larger), the State Department report doesn't expect any future to unfold in which America comes anywhere close to meeting its climate goals. None.
The only futures scenarios that are "expected" to occur are ones in which American CO2 emissions are higher in 2040 than today, and still rising.
The State Department seems so sure of this higher-CO2 future that they didn't bother to include even a single scenario with falling CO2 emissions. According to the study, this analysis was widely vetted: "The Department conducted this analysis, drawing on a wide variety of data and leveraging external expertise. The analysis reflects inputs from other U.S. government agencies and was reviewed through an interagency process."
The State Department study fails to disclose that its conclusions are only valid in the context of total American and global climate failure. To appreciate how much this lack of transparency harms the public discourse, consider the key conclusion when the expected climate context is added (in bold):
In a future of dangerous climate change [Keystone XL] is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas.
As they say, context matters.
Is that what you really meant?!?
For example, consider some recent quotes by Keystone XL backers when the actual climate context gets included [in bold].
Republican Representative Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said:
“The State Department, over the course of five years and five exhaustive reviews, has objectively determined that [in a future of dangerous climate change] the pipeline is better for safety, the environment and jobs”
A Chicago Times editorial is similar:
The U.S. State Department … found [that in a future of dangerous climate change] the pipeline wouldn't cause significant environmental damage. It wouldn't prompt more oil extraction … The Obama administration should promptly approve Keystone XL — and boast about the environmental and economic pluses it will deliver [in a future of dangerous climate change].
The Denver Post wrote an editorial urging approval of the pipeline saying:
Those who oppose the project have exaggerated its potential impact on the environment … a State Department report in January concluded that [in a future of dangerous climate change] building the pipeline would not materially boost carbon emissions because the oil would find its way to market no matter what. … Maybe environmentalists should ponder that before joining the next anti-Keystone protest.
Yes, maybe environmentalists should consider that. In fact they have been. Repeatedly.
Informing the public
Unlike the State Department and most Keystone XL advocates, climate activists have done their homework and are trying to inform the decision makers and the general public.
Here are some recent examples: