“Hockey stick” climate scientist challenges Keystone XL pipeline

By Mike De Souza, Postmedia News July 30, 2012

OTTAWA — An American climate scientist who published research behind the iconic “hockey stick” graph of rising global temperatures in recent decades is speaking out against a major pipeline expansion project due to its potential link to rising carbon dioxide emissions from Alberta’s oilsands industry.

Michael Mann, a professor from the meteorology and geosciences departments of Pennsylvania State University, joined U.S. conservation groups on Monday in urging the Obama administration to “level the playing field” in its review of Alberta-based TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL project, which would open up new markets for Canadian oil by transporting it to refineries on the gulf coast of Texas.

“The bottom line is that if we don’t take into account the environmental degradation associated with the climate change impact of some of these decisions then we’re not operating on a fair playing field when it comes to our energy choices,” said Mann in an interview with Postmedia News.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has described Alberta’s bitumen deposits as a “strategic resource” that creates thousands of jobs and makes up about two per cent of the Canadian economy. But his government has repeatedly delayed plans in recent years to regulate the industry’s impact on global warming.

Several Canadian government departments recognize the oilsands represents the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. Recently released internal briefing notes from Natural Resources Canada have also noted that the industry’s expansion is “inconsistent” with Harper’s international commitments to reduce the country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Mann said that extracting oil from a “pretty dirty petroleum source like the tarsands,” without factoring in all of the climate-related costs, makes it artificially cheaper than cleaner sources of energy.

The message coincides with a new editorial in the New York Times that urged the U.S. government to consider what the pipeline could “spill into the skies,” as it continues a review that was extended last year by President Obama.

Mann, who recently published a book called “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” — describing his research linking global warming to human activity and the resulting political and personal attacks — also was among ten climate scientists who warned U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a July 17th letter that it would be “neither wise, nor credible,” to omit global warming impacts from its review of the pipeline project.

“The vast volumes of carbon in the tarsands ensure that they will play an important role in whether or not climate change gets out of hand,” the scientists said in the letter. “Understanding the role this large scale new pipeline will play in that process is clearly crucial.”

The warnings appear to contrast with a recent commentary published by University of Victoria climate scientists Andrew Weaver and Neil Swart, who estimated that emissions from consumption of bitumen as a fuel were lower than emissions from other fossil fuels such as coal. Weaver and Swart’s analysis, which did not examine production or refining emissions from the oilsands industry, found that the bitumen resource in Alberta contains enough greenhouse gases to raise average global temperatures by 0.36 C if it is fully exploited.

Weaver later said that the commentary was meant to argue that consumption of all fossil fuels must be slashed to limit rising global temperatures and climate change.

Conservation groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council say that about 400,000 people submitted comments to Clinton’s department during a public consultation period for the review, urging the government to consider climate change in the scope of its analysis.

“The more we know about Keystone, the less it makes sense,” said Anthony Swift, a policy analyst from NRDC, during a media conference call on Monday.

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Original source article: “Hockey stick” climate scientist challenges Keystone XL pipeline