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Stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline Is a National Security Issue

The illogic emerging from the State Department yesterday on the Keystone XL pipeline would be mindboggling, if my mind hadn’t already been boggled so often in the past when it comes to this funnel of death (h/t Mr. Pierce).

The State Department acknowledged in its report that the Canadian crude produces 17 percent more carbon emissions than average sources of oil used in America and up to 10 percent more than other heavy oil coming from Venezuela and Mexico.

But the agency concluded that, even without Keystone, the oil sands still would be exploited and transported to market by rail or other pipelines.

“Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands,” the report said.

Someone’s going to make money on this project, says State, so it might as well be us. Lovely.

By this logic, TSA should be shut down. After all, “Inspection of passengers on any one airplane trip, including those going in and out of DC’s National Airport, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of terrorism.” Yeah, that’s the ticket.

As Mr. Pierce notes,

The building of the pipeline is not the point, What it carries, is. And to isolate the effect on climate change as the only environmental consideration relevant to a project built by a company that hasn’t acted in good faith for 15 minutes since they dreamed up this scheme, and that has pipelines leaking and exploding already all over North America, and a project that is going to go through the breadbasket of the world and perilously close to an aquifer that’s the only thing standing between us and having the Gobi Desert between Missouri and Utah, is to escape a flood by hiding in a lake.

This isn’t a lefty, tree-hugger, hippie, save-the-whales, feel-good thing. It’s a science thing. It’s a fact-based thing. Oh, and as Tom Donilon, then the National Security Advisor, said last April, it’s one thing more:

We are in the midst of two changes that have presented themselves with great speed:  first, the substantial increase in the supply of available, affordable energy inside the United States – which is having important impacts on U.S. economic growth, energy security and geopolitics.  Second, a transformation in the global climate, driven by the world’s use of energy, that is presenting not just a transcendent challenge for the world but a present-day national security threat to the United States.  Both push us toward the same longer-term endpoint: the comprehensive transformation of the world’s energy economy toward cleaner, more sustainable energy solutions.

Wait — what was that second thing? The transformation in the global climate is a “transcendent challenge for the world” and “a present-day national security threat to the United States”? National security? Say some more about that, Tom.

The national security impacts of climate change stem from the increasingly severe environmental impacts it is having on countries and people around the world. Last year, the lower 48 U.S. states endured the warmest year on record.   At one point, two-thirds of the contiguous United States was in a state of drought, and almost 10 million acres of the West were charred from wildfires. And while no single weather event can be directly attributed to climate change, we know that climate change is fueling more frequent extreme weather events. Last year alone, we endured 11 weather-related disasters that inflicted a $1 billion or more in damages – including Hurricane Sandy.

Internationally, we have seen the same: the first twelve years of this century are all among the fourteen warmest years on record.  Last year, Brazil experienced its worst drought in five decades; floods in Pakistan affected over five million people and damaged or destroyed over 460,000 homes; severe flooding across western Africa and the Sahel impacted three million people across fifteen countries–to give just a few examples among many.

The fact that the environmental impacts of climate change present a national security challenge has been clear to this Administration from the outset. The President’s National Security Strategy recognizes in no uncertain terms that “the danger from climate change is real, urgent, and severe.  The change wrought by a warming planet will lead to new conflicts over refugees and resources; new suffering from drought and famine; catastrophic natural disasters; and the degradation of land across the globe.”

The Department of Defense’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, issued by Secretary Robert Gates, warned not only that climate change “may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world” but also of the potential impacts of climate change on our operating environment, and on our military installations at home and around the world. A National Intelligence Assessment in 2008, multiple Worldwide Threat Assessments produced by the Director of National Intelligence, and numerous expert analyses have reached similar conclusions.  This underscores the need – for the sake of our national security — to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change and to ensure that we are as prepared as possible for the impacts of climate change.

If screaming about the science won’t get the attention of the White House, maybe pointing out the national security threat will. Last August, Tom Breen pointed out exactly how strongly the military feels about the threat posed by global climate change:

Ask Adm. Samuel Locklear III, commander of the U.S. military’s sprawling Pacific Command, what his most serious threat is, and you might be surprised. There’s a long list of possibilities, after all: North Korean nukes, rising Chinese military power and aggressive cyberespionage, multiple territorial disputes between major powers and persistent insurgencies from the Philippines to Thailand, not to mention protecting some of the world’s most vulnerable shipping choke points. Add all of that up, though, and there’s something even more dangerous to keep even the most seasoned military officer up at night: the looming disaster of climate change.

Locklear is not alone in his assessment. He is one among a rising chorus of voices from the national security community, from senior military and intelligence officials to front-line combat veterans, united by what is fast becoming a consensus view. Climate change is much more than an environmental or public health issue. The phenomenon, and the dangerous fossil fuel dependency that drives it, is among the most serious national security threats we face.

Our dependence on fossil fuels – oil, in particular – is a crucial part of the threat.

Amen. As Breen concludes,

The U.S. military does not do politics – it identifies threats based on evidence and acts to protect the nation. Congress should follow its example.

The evidence for climate change is overwhelming. It’s time for Washington to face that reality and find the courage to lead.

[You want more details about climate change and national security? Check this out.]

Shouts of “national security!” seem to be the one thing that cuts through the noise in DC. For once, it would be nice if national security concerns resulted in actions other than invading places with troops and drones or taking away civil liberties here at home.


h/t to White House photographer Pete Souza for this public domain photo of Tom Donilon. Its use here should not be taken to imply the “approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House” with my comments.

That said, I really hope that with a little more thought about the matter, they would approve and endorse the idea of refusing to allow this funnel of death to be built across the mid-section of our country. We’ll see . . .

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I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

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