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New York Times urges "no" to Keystone XL. Joe Oliver and Globe & Mail respond with climate fiction.

The New York Times editorial board recently called on President Obama to say "no" to Keystone XL. Here are some excerpts:

He should say no, and for one overriding reason: A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that ­ even by the State Department’s most cautious calculations ­ can only add to the problem.

To its credit, the State Department acknowledges that extracting, refining and burning the oil from the tar-laden sands is a dirtier process than it had previously stated, yielding annual greenhouse gas emissions roughly 17 per cent higher than the average crude oil used in the United States.

But … it fails to consider the cumulative year-after-year effect of steadily increasing production from a deposit that is estimated to hold 170 billion barrels of oil that can be recovered with today’s technology and may hold 10 times that amount altogether.

It is these long-term consequences that Mr. Obama should focus on. Mainstream scientists are virtually unanimous in stating that the one sure way to avert the worst consequences of climate change is to decarbonize the world economy by finding cleaner sources of energy while leaving more fossil fuels in the ground. Given its carbon content, tar sands oil should be among the first fossil fuels we decide to leave alone.

… [The] decision will say a lot about whether Mr. Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, are willing to exert global leadership on the climate change issue.

As I wrote last week, the controversial Keystone XL oil sands pipeline has several climate vulnerabilities that the State Department assessment didn't address. The New York Times editorial argues that two such climate issues are reasons enough to say "no".

The first is that there are "long-term consequences" to building Keystone XL. The pipeline is a three decade commitment to massive amounts of climate pollution—five billion tonnes of CO2 by my calculations—from one of world's largest and dirtiest oil sources.

The second is that the window of opportunity to preserve a safe climate is rapidly closing. Success requires President Obama to "exert global leadership".

Both the Globe & Mail and Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, responded quickly. Interestingly, both tried to peddle the same dollop of climate fiction.

The Globe & Mail went first on Monday saying:

"Keystone XL pipeline recently cleared a significant political hurdle in the United States after a State Department assessment concluded the project would not contribute to the warming of the planet."

Joe Oliver followed up on Tuesday saying:

"State Department scientists concluded that Keystone will not hurt the environment."

Nice try, but what the State Dept report actually determined was that Keystone XL would contribute to the warming of the planet by a similar amount as other possible options.  Somehow, "as harmful as the alternatives" has morphed into "no harm at all".

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