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Oil Pipeline Protesters Surround the White House Today

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Some people, like Joe Romm, want more coverage on climate change. For me, climate change is one of those subjects that I actually try to ignore. I am often silently thankful that I do not have to stare at a headline about one of the most crushing subjects of our time in the morning. Reading about climate science or climate politics, such as the absurdity of wasting a perfectly good prison (which could be used for the many bankers who actually hurt millions of Americans but won’t spend a day in jail) on Tim DeChristopher, the 30 year old climate activist who made bids on federal oil and gas leases that he couldn’t pay, makes me question my country, my existence, and my biological desire to have children.

Instead, at The New York Times, I can get depressed vicariously by reading the more prominent coverage of politicians and their crazy thoughts, like potential Republican Presidential nominee Herman Cain’s on the Koch brothers. Cain says he is “their brother from another mother.”

The Koch brothers are the anti climate-change, anti-democracy, co-founders of the Tea Party movement. They gave $150,000 to the physicist and former climate skeptic Richard Muller, who planned to prove everyone wrong. The brothers have no trouble lying to the public (for instance, saying they have no interest in the Keystone XL pipeline, when they do), but Richard Muller apparently does. At the end of October, Muller wrote up his results and conclusion in The Wall Street Journal, in a piece that gives away its findings in the title: The Case Against Global-Warming Skepticism.

The debate about warming might be non-existent, but human behavior has hardly noticed. This week, the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Lab shows the biggest one-year rise in global CO2 emissions: a 6 percent jump in 2010, which means CO2 is rising faster than the worst-case scenarios envisioned by the 2007 IPCC report, which were already unimaginable, like massive species loss on land and sea — perhaps 50% or more of all biodiversity.

All of this to say that it has been very difficult week to ignore climate change.

Thankfully, today’s news comes with more than simply information. There is an event. Thousands of protestors, including actors, Nobel peace prize winner, and, of course,’s Bill McKibben, are planning to encircle the White House at 2pm EST in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline — a 1,661-mile project to transport oil from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. Extracting crude from sand emits three times more carbon than conventional oil production, contributing to global warming that Obama pledged to fight.

“You can’t occupy the White House, but you can surround it,” said McKibben. The group is calling for the President to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, a decision President Obama says he will make after the results of an environmental-review are publicly released.

*Update November 9, 2011: More than ten thousand people gathered in Washington, D.C. and Randy Olson happened to bump into them. Next, Tar Sands Action plans visits to Obama’s 2012 campaign offices in all 50 states on November 28 to tell them that we expect the President to live up to his promises and reject the pipeline. Whether you care about climate policy or not, this is an interesting campaign to watch.

*Update November 12, 2011: The Obama Administration will be requesting a 12-18 month review for the Keystone XL pipeline, effectively eliminating the potential the project would go through, according to most analysts. In an email sent from, Bill McKibben wrote: “Some in our movement will say that this decision is just politics as usual: that the President wants us off the streets — and off his front lawn — until after the election, at which point the administration can approve the pipeline, alienating its supporters without electoral consequence. The President should know that if this pipeline proposal somehow reemerges from the review process we will use every tool at our disposal to keep it from ever being built.” I thought this paragraph that took a straightforward approach to skepticism. Many campaigns seem to assume that its supporters are too sensitive to disappointment to be this honest.

Jennifer Jacquet About the Author: Jennifer Jacquet ( is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia researching cooperation and the tragedy of the commons. Follow on Twitter @guiltyplanet.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. mkelter 8:21 am 11/7/2011

    It is nice that is trying to establish conditions of impoverishment on the rest of the world’s population with their goal of atmospheric CO2 concentrations of less than 350 ppm. It’s nice of Scientific American to provide so much publication space for an article which is more opinion than scientific fact.

    How much bearing on the science of climate change does the paragraph on Tim DeChristopher provide? Lots of people should join Bernie Maddoff in jail for swindling the American public–including a few Nobel Laureates who pushed expensive public policies based on dubious scientific fact.

    We all agree that climate is changing in some manner or another, and for some reason or another. We don’t all agree that CO2 is culprit. If CO2 increased in the news this week, why are we reading about decreases or deminimis changes in North American temperatures over the past decade?


    Ms. Jacquet is trying to sell the reading with another psuedo-scientific non-sequitur: if you don’t stop the Keystone XL pipeline, the polar bears are going to die.

    It is sad that a once-reputable scientific journal, such as Scientific American, has stooped to such low scientific and journalistic standards.

    Mike Kelter, PE
    Green Cove Springs, Florida


    Link to this
  2. 2. JamesDavis 10:14 am 11/7/2011

    Wow!, “mkelter”; you and your kind is just unbelievable. You wasted no time in letting everyone know whose sludge pond you have your head stuck up. So, you are still pushing Fox New’s old lies about the word “carbon” that uneducated people used and Fox News changed to CO2. It has never been about CO2. CO2 provides food for the trees and the trees converts that to oxygen for us to breathe. We could not live without CO2.

    It is about CO1 (carbon monoxide), and all the deadly chemicals and dark matter (soot) burning fossil fuel produces. It is the CO1 that is causing global warming, not CO2.

    Your statement that stopping the production of the pipeline for Canada’s tar sands, “establish conditions of impoverishment on the rest of the world’s population,”. Where is your research on that statement? You hollow and scream that scientific research on climate change is fake and phoney; where is your true research that stopping that pipe line will impoverish the worlds’ population?

    Let’s just pray to a make believe “god” that your statement about the rapid climate warming, water pollution, and land destruction and pollution is as true as “sin”, and all the rest of us believers in climate warming is nothing but bare-face liars.

    What is scary about you and the rest of the conservative party, including the Tea Party, is that you believe that everything you say is the truth and nothing but the truth so help you God, and everything everyone else says is the biggest lie that has ever circled this world. May your “god” have mercy on you.

    Link to this
  3. 3. Bora Zivkovic 1:18 pm 11/7/2011

    Wow! Linking to snake-oil-salesman Watts is instant disqualification in the reality-based community.

    Link to this

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