The Polluted Keystone Pipeline Discourse

By Keith Kloor | February 22, 2013 12:50 pm

When a social cause gains momentum and becomes symbolically important, partisans inevitably hijack it for their own ends. They do this by trying to define and control the meaning of the cause and how it should be perceived. We’re seeing this play out now with the Keystone XL pipeline, which has become a touchstone for environmentalists and climate activists.

An opinion piece by John Abraham in today’s Guardian is what I would consider a textbook case for how not to communicate about a cause that you care deeply about. Abraham, an outspoken voice in the climate arena, argues that President Obama’s climate change legacy hinges on the White House’s decision on the controversial pipeline. That’s absurd. For one thing, the President already has an impressive string of accomplishments on the climate and energy front.

Secondly, it really does the climate movement no good to frame the Keystone battle in such simplistic, over-the-top terms. Doing so overstates the importance of a single pipeline, a rhetorical tactic that green friendlies have been pointing out for some time.

Then there is this passage from Abraham, which is as poisonous to his cause as it is rich in irony (my emphasis):

We in the US know that we cannot expect any meaningful action on climate change from the conservative parties. For Republicans, being anti-science and anti-environment is a litmus test to viabilityIt is almost a badge of honor among some conservatives to see who can out-dirty the other.

Let’s start with the unintentional irony: Greens and climate pundits like Abraham have now made Keystone a litmus test for  President Obama on climate change. I mean, that’s the whole point of his Guardian piece!

The inflammatory language Abraham uses to score cheap political points against conservatives is simply asinine. Why do that? What’s to be gained? On the contrary, Abraham undercuts his argument with such puerile rhetoric. That passage above is a poster child for what Dan Kahan calls a polluted science-communication environment. In a Nature column last year, Kahan wrote (my emphasis):

People acquire their scientific knowledge by consulting others who share their values and whom they therefore trust and understand. Usually, this strategy works just fine. We live in a science-communication environment richly stocked with accessible, consequential facts. As a result, groups with different values routinely converge on the best evidence for, say, the value of adding fluoride to water, or the harmlessness of mobile-phone radiation. The trouble starts when this communication environment fills up with toxic partisan meanings — ones that effectively announce that ‘if you are one of us, believe this; otherwise, we’ll know you are one of them’. In that situation, ordinary individuals’ lives will go better if their perceptions of societal risk conform with those of their group.

So what Abraham does with his needless flaming of conservatives, which has nothing to do with his main (and misguided) point on Keystone, is reinforce the already intensely polarized debate on climate change. Way to go! That’s really moving the ball closer to your goal line. And on top of that, his toxic language tars, by association, the anti-Keystone pipeline cause. What he’s done is pollute the science communication environment with the “anti-science, anti-environment” tropes commonly used to demonize one’s opponents.

So that’s an example of someone trying to dictate how the Keystone battle should be defined. Now let’s turn to the ruckus kicked up by Andrew Revkin when he recently suggested that climate activists might not want to put all their eggs in the Keystone basket. Revkin’s well-meaning criticism of climate tactics and strategy has been echoed by other green-friendly types, such as Michael Levi and and Jon Foley. But for some reason, it is Revkin who is singled out by the two capos of politically correct climate discourse. Lucky him. Then again, Revkin is a frequent target of climate partisans who often feel the urge to play shoot the messenger. What’s that about? I’ll put it this way: Some climate pundits are just as ruthless as political operatives when it comes to enforcing “message” control.

Now, as it happens, I still think Keystone is a laudable, if imperfect, cause for the climate movement, despite the charged rhetoric by Abraham and others. Clearly the pipeline has helped galvanize more people to care about climate change. I don’t have a problem with that for the same reason that I, as an atheist, don’t have a problem with conservative evangelicals becoming passionate environmentalists.

But partisans should wake up to how they undermine their own cause by polluting the communication landscape they also inhabit.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FRKAEIA2MOTPFCR3FYADUP6YIU Mark

    “Clearly the pipeline has helped galvanize more people to care about climate change.”

    I have no idea where you get that idea. The pipeline issue has galvanized the Usual Suspects, and not a single person more who isn’t working on the NIMBY basis.

    And if you think this is a laudable cause, I assume you don’t drive a car, and don’t buy anything that has been moved by truck.And you’ve signed off of police and fire coverage. And the Post Office. And food grown with petroleum based fertilizers. And plastic – of all kinds. Because oil is oil.

    • Buddy199

      Gallup. Pew and other polls consistently show that just 3% of the public considers climate change / the environment as their most important issue. Not that it isn’t important at all, but I don’t know how significant galvanizing 3% of the population is.

  • http://dystopianpresent.wordpress.com/ Chris Oestereich

    The all or nothing positioning here sets up enviros for a big fall. Where do you go if the pipeline is approved? I think the divestiture campaign that’s playing out on campuses has a much better chance of driving real change and it doesn’t hinge on any single decision. That’s where I’d be throwing my weight (and hopes) in.

    • hunterson1

      Divstiture is great, in a way: it wil weaken the duchies that American Universities have become. But will it end the demand, need, and development of fossil fuels?
      lol@ the fools.

  • KingB

    Ultimately, the issue that is not raised about Keystone is not whether it is the right battle but on an environmental front why it is the wrong battle. As I have pointed out elsewhere, oil will have out so blocking Keystone will not stop the development of the oil sands nor its transport, all it will do is eliminate the safest, least environmentally risky method of moving oil sands.

    There is a clear alternative to pipelines and that alternative is rail. Rail lines exist across the country and rail is already a significant method to transport oil products across the country. The problem with rail is that it is an energy intensive method of transport (since you move almost the same weight of metal as oil in a train, using relatively inefficient means [diesel engines and friction on metal rails] and so are wasting energy) and thanks to our history of rail line construction (along rivers and other natural pathways) spills from rail transport almost always end up in more ecologically sensitive areas than spills from pipelines.

    Ultimately the only way to slow down the development of oil sands is to eliminate the driver of that development and that is the supply and demand curve for oil and oil products. As long as oil sits over $50 a barrel Alberta and Venezuela will be exploiting oil sands. Blocking Keystone, while a symbolic act will not block the development of the oil sands it will just increase the ecological risks and carbon footprint of that oil.

    • http://twitter.com/grapedoc Steve Savage

      Good points!

    • Buddy199

      Fossil fuels are in demand because of chemistry. High energy concentration, convenience, portability. Solar and wind don’t even come close which is why they remain marginal despite massive government efforts to promote them.

    • hunterson1

      Railroads are more expensive, pollute more and are less dependable and more dangerous than pipelines.
      It is hugely entertaining to watch modern enviro extremists push 19th century solutions like windmills and rail to solve modern problems, and at the same time recycling the pitiful false arguments of the enviro-wackjobs who opposed the Alaskan pipeline.

  • Jefft90

    keith

    What you are seeing is a valid concern that President is Obama is all talk and no action.

    Greenpeace director Kumi Naidoo said: “Just weeks ago, President
    Obama’s post-election victory speech displayed a vision of a second-term
    priority for addressing climate change. [The US negotiators] have come to Doha with their needle stuck in the groove of obstructing the UN process, an art they have perfected.

    “It is disrespectful of President Obama to inflict on us negotiators
    who act as if the comments he made after his election were never made.”

    Naidoo was upset that the US did not commit to provide more money to developing countries for adaption and a pledge to make higher emission cuts.

    • http://foster-boondoggle.myopenid.com/ Foster Boondoggle

      Yes, because if he’s *really* on our side Obama can wave his magic wand, make that aid money appear and cause that carbon tax legislation to pass the GOP house.

    • jh

      I would be extremely upset if the US committed one cent to developing countries for “climate aid”. That’s the biggest rip-off ever.

      The US has contributed hundreds of billions of dollars to developing countries already: the benefits of every single penny of US citizen’s public money spent on medical research are freely available in the libraries of the world, as is most of the benefits of other types of scientific research. US and European support has eliminated or nearly eliminated several formerly debilitating or deadly diseases in the developing world. US aid organizations provide hundreds of millions of dollars in medical aid to developing countries every year. Most of this aid would not be possible without our energy infrastructure.

      I would never support any proposal that smacks of some kind of “carbon compensation” for developing nations. No, No, No.

      And that’s exactly the problem with the climate lobby – they tie every one of their pet issues up to climate change in hopes of shoving it down Americans’ throats. No wonder they’ve made no progress.

  • Buddy199

    But partisans should wake up to how they undermine their own cause by polluting the communication landscape they also inhabit.

    —————–

    But a true partisan realizes that he alone possesses The Truth so any means is appropriate to achieve the ends.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001134042870 George Koehler

      But a true partisan realizes that he alone possesses The Truth so any means is appropriate to achieve the ends.”

      What psyco-babble self righteous nonsense. I guess murder for the cause is OK. Go chase your white whale some place else.

  • Leopard Basement

    I think the fact there is a definite, certain, bifurcation point coming up in the XL pipeline decision is going to be the most interesting thing to happen to climate politics to date ;)

    The attempt by these environmental lobbyists to hold Obama true to the full implications of his climate rhetoric is the most honest example of environmental lobbying there can be. It should be fully understandable even from an antagonist’s point of view. This is actually where the “debate” should be. This is politics.

    The consequences of moving along either path of the bifurcation are fascinating. There is no going back guys ;)

  • Tom Fuller

    As someone far to the left of all these bozos I can only feebly mention that at least we are consistent in our stupidity. We’ve been doing it this way for a century and I guess we’ll never change.

    We will very soon have to quit demanding ‘climate justice’ and start pleading for climate mercy.

  • http://twitter.com/grapedoc Steve Savage

    Does it actually make any sense for complex decisions such as this to be made by a President? Don’t get me wrong, he is a very smart guy, but deciding what to do on this is an extremely complex question that has been boiled down to absurdly trivial black/white issues by partisans on both sides.

  • jh

    Keith,

    I agree the inflammatory language of Abraham’s article isn’t helping his cause. But as much as you claim to be standing outside the fray, but all you’re really doing here is criticizing the tone of sales pitch.

    Kind of funny, you commented about A Watts in one of your recent comments. Watts is definitely

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eli-Rabett/1444417779 Eli Rabett

    Ah, yet another of the Very Serious People posts from Keith Kloor. Yes, the environmentalists are framing this as a marker. Why not? As Leopard said below given the lack of respect from the Obama administration to date and the support they have given environmentalist want a marker and payback. Keystone is the one that has been selected. If Obama wants support going forward he had better kill the pipeline otherwise he walks alone. John Abraham’s post is just that message.

    As to the engineering and economics of the thing, the reason that Keystone has been proposed is that the refineries in Houston are among the few that can economically handle the heavy oil so all the hand waving about taking the oil to the west coast (good luck on getting through BC ) is just that. Some of the oil is moving that way anyhow, but to really make a profit they need the pipeline.

    • KingB

      Eli,

      You are thinking small world. While the refineries in Louisiana can refine the oil sands so can those in China. The American oil companies that run the Louisiana refineries want their facilities running at full speed, but that does not preclude exporting oil sands off the West coast, either through existing pipelines (trans-mountain), via the existing rail lines, or via the new line proposed via Alaska. Alternatively changing direction on the existing gas pipeline to Halifax and the under utilized refining capacity on Canada’s east coast.

      The main beneficiaries of Keystone (in the long term) are American refineries, refinery workers and Americans not put at risk by sending their oil dollars to Venezuela. Canadians will benefit in the short term by improving their sale price on oil sands but regardless of Keystone, the oil sands will flow because the demand is there and $90 bbl oil means you can make money all sorts of ways.

      • http://twitter.com/andyskuce Andy Skuce

        According to the Chinese themselves, they can’t handle much bitumen. Of course, they might build more.

        http://www.ogj.com/articles/2012/07/oshot-chinas-ability-to-process-canadian-heavy-oil-limited.html

        And according to Alberta Oil Magazine, rail is not a viable option.

        http://www.albertaoilmagazine.com/2011/08/why-rail-isn%E2%80%99t-an-option-to-ship-alberta-bitumen-to-new-markets/

        Yes, persistent demand means that a way will be found to get the bitumen to market. But it will take years and add uncertainty for the producers. They called it “Keystone” for a reason.

        • KingB

          Andy,

          Check out the date on that Alberta Oil article, it is almost 2 years old. In the oil business those 2 years have seen a sea change. Two years ago Gateway seemed like a slam dunk and passing Keystone was going to get Obama elected in the Red states. Since that time bot those became less likely and American rail companies have invested hundreds of millions in rolling stock capable of moving 1.7 millions bbls a day. Look at the January 2013 edition of the magazine. They aren’t talking about whether it will be going by rail but rather what it will cost per bbl.

          Meanwhile on the China front CNOOC has just bought out a major Canadian oil company (Nexxen) so it can get access to the oil sands in Nexxen’s portfolio. They wouldn’t be spending $5 billion without a plan to use the stuff they bought.

          • jh

            Better yet, just watch Cramer. He’s pretty hyped on tank-car manufacturers.

            Hilariously enough, one of the major tank car builders also builds towers for wind turbines. They recently shut down one of their turbine tower plants to convert it to tank car production.

          • hunterson1

            The guly deception regarding Keystone is demonstrated by the railcar issue:
            One of Obama’s billionaire buddies, Buffett, has huge interests in the rail transport.
            Railroad transport of oil wa a great 19th century technology. It spills more oil, costs more, pollutes more than pipelines. But it just happens to make a rich pal of Barry’s a lot of money.
            But it does nothing to help the alleged concerns of the climate/enviro extremists who are enabling this 19th century solution to further enrich Warren Buffett.
            You fools.

          • http://twitter.com/andyskuce Andy Skuce

            KingB
            There’s no doubt that rail transport can be expanded and might be a viable sole option for some small producers. However, a lot of the recent extra rolling stock for oil transportation has been built with the Bakken in mind.

            The producing companies themselves admit that expanding bitumen production by ~2 million barrels a day over the coming decade requires pipelines. See slide 8 here:
            http://www.petersco.com/pdf/Crude%20Oil%20Panel%20-%20Cenovus.pdf

            Rail transport will also cost more than pipelines, applying a crude form of carbon tax, which will have to do until a real one comes along.

            CNOOC bought Nexen for its N Sea reserves and technology as well as bitumen.

          • KingB

            You are right, but they also got oil sands and since the southern half of Keystone is almost complete, the distance needed on the rails is even shorter.

            Hunterson1,

            While I don’t share your disdain for your president, I do agree that rail is a bad way to ship oil, but if it is the only show in town then that is what will be used.

          • harrywr2

            “Rail transport will also cost more than pipelines”

            Roughly $3 barrel/10 cents gallon.

            A 10 cent per gallon fuel tax isn’t going to change anyones driving habits.

            We had the CAFE vs Fuel Tax discussion in 1975… CAFE standards won.

            IMHO…lobbying for more aggressive CAFE standards would be better for the environment.

            Ohh but wait…the Republicans passed into law more stringent CAFE standards in 2005…

            https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=109&session=1&vote=00213

            In an interesting aside…the fact that so few of the climate concerned would credit Republicans for doing anything related to Climate Change allows Republicans to deny any hand in passing more stringent CAFE standards. The blame Lisa Jackson and the EPA….when Lisa Jackson was required by a law passed by Republicans to set more stringent standards.

            Just Too Funny.

    • Tom Scharf

      “If Obama wants support going forward he had better kill the pipeline otherwise he walks alone”

      What are the greens going to do? Stop voting Democrat? Zero chance of that.

      This is the problem with becoming a captive of one party on a polarized issue. Obama owes you nothing and everyone knows it. And if he does approve Keystone, your behavior (beyond a lot of whining) will not change in the least. You will stridently vote for whoever else is on the Democrat ticket next time. Guaranteed. 100%.

      And this captive issue works both ways. Republicans have no *** political *** motive to support the banning of Keystone. They will not get one extra green vote if they came out against it. Not one. But they are likely to lose their next primary.

      Moral of the story: These threats have no teeth.

  • Kevin D Brown

    While the discussion about tactics, which is all this is, is useful, I am impatient with this type of discussion. What most (not all) of the people commenting here are missing is the fact that we have to quit gabbing about climate change and get to work.

    Who really thinks that 2012 is the worst that the climate can show the US, Canada, and other countries? Was Sandy the worst storm? Was the drought the most severe we will ever see? Were the tornadoes as severe as they can be? Were the fires in the west as bad as they can get?

    While we crow about who is more mistaken in their approach, precious time is being wasted. We will not be able to argue with the harsh science and unforgiving math of climate change.

    This is not a partisan issue. The climate, destabilized by air pollution that we have put into the atmosphere, will treat Republican and conservative, Democrat and Liberal and democratic socialist, Green, red, white and blue, all the same.

    We have the solutions to begin the work. It is simply time to do so.

    • Buddy199

      And that’s the rub. The climate forecasting models leave a lot to be desired, especially when trying to peer into the future 100 years from now and accurately describe what conditions will be like. A large percentage of the population, including many intelligent people who have looked at the data, think that there’s just too much unjustified hyperbole in the dire warnings. And are just not convinced that we must begin rapidly diismantling our carbon driven industrial society and replace it with a massively government subsidized solar and windmill based system (greens hate nuclear and dams).

      • Kevin D Brown

        Thanks for the reply. A couple of points:
        – climate forecasting models have been tweaked over the years to provide a much more accurate look into the future. They are also being used by scientists who are loath to depend on inaccurate models, due not only to the caution built into science, but also because of the attacks on the credibility of their studies. This caution means that forecasts are turning out to be much more conservative than events are revealing as we go forward into a climate changed world.
        – the real victory of solar and wind is that the subsidies paid have been a fraction of those paid to the fossil fuel industries, and yet solar and wind have managed to compete. These subsidies are both actual and monetary, such as the low royalties that are paid to government for tar sands oil, and hidden. An example of the later is the fact that solar and wind have to use surface rights to operate; there is nothing equivalent to the sub-service rights auctioned and claimed by fossil fuel and mining companies for a fraction of the cost of the disruption to communities and natural capital alone.
        – it would be great if all the costs to society and the environment were to be placed against the cost of various fuels. We would then find out what is the most efficient form of energy production. I would like it very much if ALL subsidies were removed from ALL forms of energy production.
        – studies have shown that there is MUCH less impact from renewable energy. Don’t forget that it is the hyper-critical green community that has been working on alternative energy for so long; we are famous for shooting ourselves in the foot due to constant picking apart of positions…
        – lacking from many conversations is the fact that there is such a lot of waste of energy in cheap energy economies. The worry about new energy sources usually deletes mention of conservation, and yet this is the key to allow renewable energy to work as it should.
        – “greens hate nuclear and dams” with good reason. Nuclear power is only price competitive with massive subsidies on the part of ratepayers for more expensive electricity, on the part of the environment for insults caused by the release of radiation from the process, mining of fuel and accidents, and for decommissioning of old plants. Nuclear can not survive on economic terms. It is far from climate neutral due to the energy needed to build and operate plants, though much better than coal fired plants.
        Dams are touted as being “clean and green.” However, not only is the true cost of flooded lands, both natural landscapes and farmland and towns, not included in the accounting, but studies have shown that dams are only slightly cleaner than natural gas-fired generating plants. Again, much better than coal, but not green.

        However, the appeal to caution is noted. We simply cannot afford to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Wind farms, without proper safeguards to ensure that impacts are mitigated, can be damaging. If huge roads are built to install and service windmills, land impacts are much greater than necessary; a similar issue is faced by landowners who lease the surface rights to gas and oil companies and find that 10-20% or more of the land surface is eaten up by access roads and service pads. Mega-projects are mega-projects. Chasing “economies of scale” can be damaging if good farmland is covered with solar panels, desert ecosystems are sacrificed to create concentrated solar facilities, and etc.

        Having said that, I would rather see a couple of hundred windmills off the coast of Cape Cod, than a couple more mountain tops removed to feed the electricity needs of part of the east coast…

        • Kevin D Brown

          But what the ?? What am I doing spewing words?

          The math on climate and fossil fuel use is clear. 4/5ths of the fossil fuels in current known reserves (never mind how much more we find) needs to stay in the ground. Of the portion that we can burn before we trigger runaway climate change, 1/5 of current reserves, we need to use it as carefully as possible for maximum benefit, rather than quickly and wastefully.

          You are quite right: the change required to meet this challenge is huge. We need to get to work, and build a new, very low carbon economy, before changes to the climate render us bankrupt in the struggle to survive.

          • hunterson1

            Kevin,
            We are not going to trigger “runaway climate change” by burning the oil/coal in the volumes you mention. Nor does the math support you. You are conflating your obsessions about energy and CO2 into some sort of scientific ‘fact’.

          • Kevin D Brown
          • hunterson1

            Kevin,
            Show us that the droughts, tornados or storms were unprecendented or even historically unusual.
            The AGW kooks project their fear and historical illiteracy onto current events. I live in Texas where we had a bad drought in 2011, and it is still lingering in 2013. Almost as bad as the 1950’s multi-year drought, which was almost as bad as the droughts recorded in earlier history.
            Crop failures are part of farming. Blaming CO2 is the idiocratic response of the climate obsessed.

            Kevin,

          • Kevin D Brown

            Hey Hunterson,

            You can easily go back in history and find drought. Floods. Storms. Wildfires. Rainfall. As you quite rightly point out, weather events have happened in the past; extreme weather events, even. Weather is indeed not climate.

            This rubs both ways, however. As I have said before, it is not single events that matter; it is the scale and rate of change that is important. The number of weather events that we have been having, taken together, present a pattern of climate change that has been predicted, and is happening.

            As Richard Somerville, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Climate and Meteorology, University of California, San Diego has said:

            “This is no longer something that’s theory or conjecture or something that comes out of computer models. We’re observing the climate changing—
            it’s happening, it’s real, it’s a scientific fact.”

            Calling people who happen to agree with 98% of the scientists publishing in the field of climate science “AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) kooks” belies a point of view which is dangerously at odds with reality.

            As such, I am not replying to try to convince you. I merely hope that others, reading your comments, see some value in mine…

          • hunterson1

            When eugenics was at the height of its popularity, most scientists and ‘progressives’ supported it, as well. I will stick to pointing out that the weather extremes are no more extreme than have been. I will continue pointing out that relying, as you do, on appeals to authority and threats is just a cheap and shallow tactic. Pipelines are tremendously better than trains for transportation of bulk liquids- financially and environmentally. You extremists can continue to recycle the fibs used in Alaska and can continue to support enriching Obama’s pals with insider deals on transportation and windmills and phony solar cell companies.
            The climate will continue to ignore you, no matter how heroically you phrase your empty claims and threats.

          • Kevin D Brown

            Pipelines are better than trains. Would you rather be shot in the head or shot in the heart? We have to leave most of the carbon fuels in the ground.
            I hear no science from you – talk about empty claims. I present science, and I am a crypto-fascist. Eugenics – based on fatally flawed science – is compared to a broad and overwhelming consensus on AGW – and I have hollow threats.
            History does go and make fools of us all – that’s a guarantee.
            You don’t like science. Please try this simple test: hold a bowling ball above your toe. Drop it. Argue against science.

          • Kevin D Brown

            And good bye. This is no longer remotely beneficial.

          • hunterson1

            Kevin,
            Yes, like a typical bully- if you don’t get your way, run away.
            You have no argument to offer except to dissemble and distract and bluster. Just like AGW in a microcosm.

          • hunterson1

            Eugenics, Kevin, was state of the art science when it was popular. How you insist on self-ignorance over informed reasoning is beyond me.
            And asserting that I don’t like science because I decline to agree with your alarmist claptrap is really just desperation on your part.

          • Kevin D Brown

            Well, Kevin. You sure got ‘em.

            Next time, avoid responding to vituperative, ad-hominum attacks that bluster along, repeating the same arguments without responding to actual links to fact, all along accusing you of being a “o” (you fill it in).

            As for the science, you got off track, which of course is what he was trying to accomplish.

            The best site that I have seen for actual information about climate change, as well as a critical analysis of the actual fact involved in what is happening, is Hot Topic. It’s based in New Zealand, and the information about what is happening there with the politics of climate change is worth a read on its own. They also have links to other sites around the world, including in the US and Canada. http://hot-topic.co.nz

            Next time, stick to the point. You are no climate scientist, but you can pass along the information written by those who are, and those who are forced to support them due to just the same kind of attack that you have been witness to.
            Cheers,
            Kevin.

          • hunterson1

            Kevin, I can go back in history and find these things because those things are what weather does. The delusion that AGW believers buy into is that somehow there was a period of benign weather. the only thing we are suffering from is historical illiteracy and ignorance thinly venered with climate science.

        • jh

          Well, Kevin, you seem to be missing the point.

          Many of us don’t agree that “we have to quit gabbing about climate change and get to work.” We opposed large-scale climate action plans. And because there’s enough of us in opposition, it ain’t happenin’. Mostly, we’re stopping it.

          And thats the rub, ain’t it? Climate activists need a strategy – the thing that you don’t like – to convince enough people that are on the fence to join their side. The problem is that their strategies continue to alienate at least as many people as they convince. That’s why Keith has a problem with the strategy.

          I have a problem with the strategy too. My problem with the strategy is that it employ exaggerations and falsehoods about man-made climate change.

          You used one such falsehood yourself. You said “Was Sandy the worst storm? Was the drought the most severe we will ever see?”

          The answer to both, of course, is “no, they weren’t the worst”. But that would be the answer even without man-made climate change. Man-made climate change wasn’t required to produce either Sandy or the current drought.

          This is why I oppose action on climate change: most of it’s supposed effects are the same as the effects of climate without man-made climate change.

          • Kevin D Brown

            Yes, there is huge opposition to change, especially that required to benefit others. As to who “we” is, have a look at the numbers and dollars. Then compare this to the math and basic physics of the effects of CO2 and other global warming chemicals, and argue about that.

            Strategy? I never said that I didn’t like strategy. Just that endless squabbling about the finer points of strategy is starting to get in the way of sorely needed action, and that is a problem.

            As to the various strategies of climate activists, they are many and varied, as need be to confront the challenge ahead. Saying that they have no effective and inclusive strategy for engaging community and energizing political support is only to display ignorance about the powerful movement to awaken people to the causes, effects and solutions related to climate change.

            I was not asking if Sandy was the worst storm, literally. I was posing the question and broadly hinting at this: how much wackier does the weather have to get before we start seeing the predicted pattern of the effects of climate change?

            You are quite right: I can’t necessarily pin climate change on Sandy. But when Sandy coincides with record heat records in 2012, with a huge drought in the Midwest and elsewhere, with violent tornadoes in the South, hot, large and lengthy fires in the West and South, and with extreme weather events worldwide… Combine these mere coincidences with the data from the earth sciences across widely varied fields of inquiry, from ocean acidification to sea level rise, and the chances that climate change is not happening, and further, that humans are not the cause… Well, you might as well talk about the number of stars in the universe, it’s a number at the same scale. The idea that, “most of it’s supposed effects are the same as the effects of climate without man-made climate change,” is flatly wrong, is not supported by the evidence.

            Key for most people to understand: it is the rate and scale of change that is the issue.

          • hunterson1

            You confuse the physics of CO2 with your crazy beliefs about a climate in crisis.
            You seem to think that 2012 offered some sort of climategeddon, apprently.
            It is actually entertiaing, in a pitiful sort of way.

          • Kevin D Brown

            Yes you might find it entertaining. Unless your house was burned up in Colarado Springs, ripped apart by a tornado in Alabama, flooded in New York, taken by the bank because your crop failed – again – in Iowa. What part of the US do you live in where you failed to notice impacts of climate change during 2012?
            Pitiful? Political opposition to an overwhelming consensus on climate change, prevarication and delay while real human impacts are worsened – that is pitiful. That is worse. It will soon be seen as criminal and treasonous.

          • hunterson1

            So now if people disagree your climate alarmist claptrap it is ‘criminal and tresaaonous’? You are a deeply disturbed person. Are you going to act out like those other lefty extremists in Tuscon and Aurora?

          • Kevin D Brown

            98% of climate scientists agree that:
            1) the climate is changing;
            2) pollution, especially CO2 and methane as well as other gases and particulate matter, is causing it to change, in ways that are outside of natural climate variation;
            3) humans are the cause.
            Although they are a cautious bunch, many now also state that:
            4) the climate is changing much more quickly than predicted, and we need to rapidly curtail pollution if we are to keep the climate stable enough to survive as a civilization.
            The only alarmist claptrap that I hear is coming from people who say that moving away from fossil fuels is dangerous, ridiculous, uneconomic, against the American way of life and etc.
            You are welcome to disagree. You are not welcome to disagree with reality to the point that you endanger the lives and health of others. Persist, and that is what you are doing.
            Bye.

          • Kevin D Brown
          • hunterson1

            What a ridiculous argument.

          • hunterson1

            Kevin,
            “The climate is changing much more quickly thann expected” is hype, as is your assertion that 98% of scientists agree with fill-in-the-blank.
            As toyour crypto-fascist threats towards those who dare topoint out that the cliamte is doing nothing other than what it has been doing, well nothing demosntrates lack of legitimate points than criminal threats or worse. You are convincing people more and more that AGw is in fact, despite appeals to authority and threats against skeptics, just another example of human failings, as was eugenics about 100 years ago.

          • Kevin D Brown

            Nonsense. Nonsense.
            Have a look at the research.
            All National Academies of Science around the globe support my “claims”
            I will not convince you.
            The climate might.
            Insulate yourself with untruth all you want.
            As you point out, the climate will ignore us all.

  • mikes

    “Now let’s turn to the ruckus kicked up by Andrew Revkin when he recently suggested that climate activists might not want to put all their eggs in the Keystone basket.”

    This is just another careless, or flatly wrong statement. No one objects to “varied” (as Andy puts it) approaches. To suggest so is more revising the argument to fit your tribal defense. The argument, which is pretty easy to see in Robert’s post, is that the anger at Andy came while he suggested the protest was either a waste of time, or counter productive, or any other argument that is suggested that says that the movement on Keystone is bad idea. It really is a bizarre twist of logic to make it seem like it was the other way around.

    If you think your version of events is correct, go find out who criticized whose approach. Did anyone call Andy’s approach meaningless? Or did Andy criticize McKibbon’s (350.org) approach? Did someone from 350,org tell Andy that his ballroom science fair with kids was unproductive, or did Andy call 350’s approach counter-productive?

    While the backlash may have rubbed you the wrong way, and been a bit emotional for your taste, this doesn’t give you the poetic license to make up a new history to defend Andy. Please get it right once in a while. Or at least attempt to make your case with some logic.

  • hunterson1

    Abraham fits right in with the President’s inflammatory, deceptive and ignorant portrayals of republicans. I fail to see the problem. The fish rots from the head, and our President is setting a strong example of how to polarize, alienate and manipulate the public at every opportunity. Keystone is the most efficient way to move Canadian oil into the American markets. It would have the net impact of lessening the number of oil tankers moving oil into the American Gulf coast region. Oil tankers are far more hazardous than pipelines for moving oil. But the enviro-obsessed do not care. The enviro kooks are using the same false and deceptive arguments against keystone that they did against the Alaskan pipeline. All they do is feed the parasitic NGO’s and their lawyers with their phony claims and contrived protests.

  • Tom Fuller

    I posted on this topic yesterday and one of my commenters rather caustically noted that the environmental arguments about the disastrous local effects of pipelines had been made about Alaska and proven uniformly false. http://thelukewarmersway.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/the-keystone-comedy/

  • kdk33

    Enviro-nut-jobs once again confuse “damage the economy” with “protect the environment”. As many highlight, that oil is coming out of the ground with or without the pipeline.

    The US economy is poised to experience a manufacturing Renaissance. Energy costs are at historical lows. Raw materials are so cheap that major petrochemical investments are being considered for the first time in a generation, US has the best technology and the most educated work force, and the markets are here.

    And we have a president willing to throw it all away for a windmill.

    You can’t make this stuff up.

  • Psyclic

    Unfortunately, this umbrage is a COMPLETE waste of time. As long as there are no viable alternatives for energy, gradual and consistent decimation of the ecology WILL continue.
    Human energy, voices and insight should be directed to getting industry and governement to INVEST and SUPPORT alternative energy sources AND conservation. SciAm article http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=new-geothermal-data-system
    indicates geothermal energy could supply 10X the existing capacity of coal-fired electric generation; wind and solar are becoming more efficient; hybrid and all-electric vehicles are available to replace one of the major sinks for petroleum energy…If you think XL is BAD, support the alternative, don’t just buy a hybrid and complain.

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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