Climate Change

The U.N.'s Climate Panel Issues Strongest Warning Yet

4.16.2014 · Drew Toal

In the world of news that should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, the U.N’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its report detailing the imminent and terrifying near future all but ensured by continued global inaction on climate change. The panel warns that total carbon emissions are trending toward the higher end of its projections, and unless governments act quickly to address the problem, by as soon as 2030 it will be difficult—if not impossible—to keep overall warming below two degrees Celsius (the internationally-agreed upon maximum).

Assuming states continue punting on establishing a meaningful emissions cap, the report suggests the world’s only recourse may be in controversial and untested technologies aimed at sucking the excess CO2 straight out of the atmosphere and pumping said carbon directly into the ground.

The report also notes that transportation emissions continue to be a big driver of climate change, and will be an even bigger one by 2050, by which time levels are projected to double. As more and more people move to urban areas, it will become increasingly important for cities to develop energy efficient infrastructure to help defray the staggering and ever-increasing environmental costs.

The IPCC’s projections offer a sobering timeline. Climate change is no longer a distant future that none of us will live to see. It is happening here and now—and the worst effects will be felt in a matter of decades, not millennia or even centuries.

The window for meaningful action is closing fast, but there is still time to avert the worst effects of climate change. Unfortunately, this smallest of opportunities could be rendered meaningless if President Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipeline is a political lightning rod, and as such it’s enveloped in myths and misinformation. Here are the facts:

• The tar sands of Alberta contain 1.8 trillion barrels of potentially extractable oil.
• Producing a barrel of tar sands crude results in three times more greenhouse gas emissions than regular barrel of oil. At a time when the IPCC says we need to be drastically cutting carbon emissions, an increase of this magnitude could be disasterous.
• As bad as things stand in Alberta, they will be infinitely worse if the pipeline gets approved. Keystone XL will allow TransCanada to bisect the United States and pump its sludgy bitumen-and-chemical cocktail to refineries on the Gulf Coast. From there it will be shipped directly to petroleum-hungry countries like China. Having direct access to a market that large will all-but-ensure that Big Oil sucks out every barrel of tar sands crude they can get—spelling potential disaster for the climate.

Corporate lobbyists will do all they can to push this thing through without a real debate. Take our Tar Sands Crash Course and let President Obama know that he needs to say no to Keystone XL.

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