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Guilty Planet

Guilty Planet

Cooperation, conservation, and technology.

Oil Pipeline Protesters Surround the White House Today

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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, 350.org'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 350.org, 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.

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

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