Keystone XL Pipeline

Are Dumb Foreign Policies Holding Us Back On Addressing Climate Change?

During his second inaugural address, President Obama promised to move the US forward on addressing climate change. So you'd think that rejecting the TransCanada Corporation's proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have a significant carbon impact if implemented, would be a no-brainer, right?

Not according to a recent New York Times report. After tens of thousands of activists descended on Washington this past Sunday to press the president to fulfill his promise on climate and reject the Keystone XL application, [1] the New York Times report claimed that the President faced a difficult decision: if Obama rejects the pipeline project as those concerned about climate change demand, he would provoke the Canadian conservative government to retaliate. [2] How? By not supporting bad US foreign policies!

Policies that are in the best interest of the American public ought not to be traded for policies that most Americans have no stake in. Tell President Obama to reject the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/reject-keystone

So why does the New York Times think Obama should be afraid of the Conservative Canadian government? One claim was that a rejection of the Keystone XL project would end up

causing a deep and perhaps lasting rift with Canada… a close ally on Iran and Afghanistan… Its leaders have made it clear that an American rejection … could bring retaliation.

But Canada has already withdrawn the bulk of its troops from Afghanistan—a war most Americans want to end anyway. [3] There are only about 950 Canadian soldiers left in Afghanistan, almost all of whom are there solely to train the Afghan army and all of whom will be withdrawn at the end of 2014. [4] And retaliation concerning Iran would take the form of—what, exactly? Less support for further sanctions on Iran, which are already keeping Iranian civilians from getting lifesaving medicines? [5]

Why I'm Protesting the Tar Sands Pipeline at the White House on Saturday

The key political fact about the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is this: at the end of the day, the decision of whether to approve the permit for the pipeline or not will be a political decision wholly owned by President Obama.

 

The final determination on the permit will be based whether approval would be in the "national interest" of the United States. This is an inherently political determination. By denying the permit for the pipeline, President Obama can take a concrete action against climate chaos without securing one Republican vote, without spending one tax dollar, without getting approval from the Tea Party.

 

If, on the other hand, President Obama were to approve the permit for the pipeline, then he would be acting to promote climate chaos, and this decision could not be blamed on the dispute over the nation's projected debt in 2021, Republicans or the Tea Party. It would be President Obama, standing alone, breaking a campaign promise to act to protect the climate from chaos induced by human action.

 

This is a global justice issue, because climate chaos is inherently discriminatory against the poor and the weak. A hurricane that strikes Haiti and Florida with the same force is virtually guaranteed to hurt Haitians more, because Haiti has fewer resources to protect its citizens against hurricanes. More Haitians have inadequate shelter to start with; the infrastructure for emergency response is weaker; the health care system is weaker. So any action which has the effect of making hurricanes more intense is going to have disparate impact on Florida and Haiti, for the future as far as we can see.

 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has noted: