Sunday, May 4, 2014

Keystone XL Pipeline Would be Bad News for Colorado

Here is the speech I yelled into a megaphone in front of Senator Mark Udall's office building this afternoon as a part of a rally organized by Colorado's 

"Thanks for being here today to help bring the Keystone XL pipeline vote to the attention of our fellow Coloradans and to let our senators know that we are strongly opposed to the pipeline. 

I’m Keah Schuenemann, a climate and meteorology professor right here in Denver, sporting a proud PhD in atmospheric science from the University of Colorado. 

Since moving to here 10 years ago for graduate school, I’ve gotten a true taste of Colorado living:  endless Sunny days and mild winters sprinkled with more powder days than a Wisconsin girl could dream of, but I’ve also had a wildfire threaten my home as I sweated out the heat wave of 2012 in a non-air conditioned condo; I’ve bailed buckets and shop vacs full of water from my flooded neighbors’ condos as they stood paralyzed while water poured from the sky and into their homes; I’ve learned that spring precipitation is welcome here not only to help our farmers, but to keep the state from burning to the ground during the dry days of summer. 

Of course as a weather and climate professor, I thrive on understanding Colorado’s delicate climate and moody weather, but I wonder if these events are just a flavor of things to come. 

Beyond the very direct negative effects the Keystone XL pipeline’s leaks and spills could have on our environment in the United States, committing to tapping unconventional, carbon intensive fuel like tar sands from this pipeline would be a long term commitment to irreversible climate change. 

The carbon footprint of the pipeline would send us down a path towards further global warming of levels the international community has agreed will have catastrophic effects.  In fact, the US National Climate Assessment was released today and claimed for our region,

1.    “Heat, drought, and competition for water supplies will increase with continued climate change.”

2.    “Projected regional temperature increases, combined with the way cities amplify heat, will pose increasing threats and costs to public health in cities.” 

3.    “Increased warming, drought, and insect outbreaks, all caused by, or linked to climate change, have increased wildfires and impacts to people and ecosystems.  Fire models project more wildfire and increased risks to communities across extensive areas.” 

4.    “Snowpack and streamflow amounts are projected to decline in parts of the region, decreasing surface water supply reliability for cities, agriculture, and ecosystems.” 
Tar sands pipeline!  Clever!

Imagine our future with this commitment to warming.  As sea levels rise, populations would be displaced worldwide, but also here in the United States along our very own vulnerable coastlines.  Imagine how far storm surges from future hurricanes would penetrate starting from a 2 foot higher sea!  Perhaps some of those people might find themselves a little more comfortable here in the Mile-High City where a downward trend in snow cover will limit our ability to sustain population growth due to dwindling water supplies.  

I tell my students all the time, “Fighting global warming isn’t about being a tree hugger/environmentalist!”  It’s about keeping the planet at a stable temperature for human society, to avoid climate catastrophes, to simply be able to grow food, something that might be a bit of a challenge in California this year after their historic drought. 

The Keystone XL pipeline isn’t good for the Front Range, for Colorado, for the United States, or for the global community.  Sometimes in our busy day-to-day lives we forget that our fuel decisions here in America can have enduring global consequences that last for centuries.  

We have all the tools we need to solve this problem, we can DO this, but tapping the Canadian tar sands CANNOT be a part of the energy portfolio that moves us safely forward, it would be a Giant Leap in the wrong direction.

Please join me in telling Colorado Senators Udall and Bennet that we are not willing to commit to long term climate change and we must say "No!" to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Thank you." 

Click here to let your senators know directly that you oppose the pipeline: 
Tweet Mark Udall @MarkUdall and @SenBennetCO telling them to vote against Keystone XL! 
June 2012:  I'm watching the airplanes fly over as they try to put out the wildfire just two miles from the place I call home while we wait on pre-evacuation notice.