Earth to America

Blue Man Group’s Call to Avert Climate Disaster

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate managed to stop – by just one vote – a measure that would have approved the Keystone XL pipeline. And the environmental community is claiming victory. James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies was the first to say extracting and burning the tar sands oil from Canada would mean “game over” for our climate.

But what’s next? Republicans vow to bring it back in January, when they’ll have majority control of the Senate, and passage of the bill will virtually be assured.

And while there is hope that President Obama will stop pipeline construction, he continues to dodge the question of whether he would veto the project.

Is Obama Really Serious About Climate Change?

If President Obama was serious about taking meaningful action to avert the worst effects of climate change, he would cancel any future expansion of the Keystone XL program and put in its place a full-scale, war-like response against climate change across the U.S.

It is true that many climate initiatives have taken place during Obama’s administration, but none go far enough to avert disaster:

  • A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggests that the recent negotiations with China to curb their emissions is not far from business as usual.
  • While the EPA’s Clean Power Plan will have some positive impacts, it keeps coal in the mix of fuels. Coal would continue to fuel 30 percent of the nation’s electricity generation by 2030, and the EPA’s Clean Power Plan would boost coal extraction in Illinois as utilities forced to install pollution control equipment in their power plants seek the less costly, higher-heat content coal found in the Illinois coal basin. The impacts of mining coal in the heartland include loss of prime farmland and forest; air pollution; contamination of water, including drinking water; sickness; and community displacement (read about the impacts of longwall mining in Illinois).

No Emergency Exits

Climate change isn’t something that “may” affect us in the future. Climate change already is beginning to transform life on Earth. Seasons are shifting, temperatures are climbing and sea levels are rising. 2013 tied for the seventh-warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. And a recent study by NASA scientists found that the planet could warm 20% more than earlier estimates.

There is much more that can be done by this administration to prevent runaway climate change through more aggressive emissions reduction targets; incentivizing clean, safe, renewable energy and increased energy efficiency, instead of moving from one fossil fuel to another (including relying upon or promoting natural gas as a bridge fuel); implementing a carbon tax; and more. We agree with the Climate Reality Project’s assertions that solutions put forward by this administration should protect low-income consumers and not create or exacerbate other environmental or socio-economic problems.

We have just one planet, upon which all life depends. And, as the Blue Man Group reminds us, there are no emergency exits.

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