Climate Change Denial at the NY Times

I opened up Joe Nocera’s column in today’s NY Times, “The Poisoned Politics of the Keystone XL,” with anticipation, thinking that at last the Times was going to deliver a column roundly critiquing the pipeline and the oil-drenched politics from which it sprang.

My expectations could not have been more disappointed.

To put it mildly, Joe Nocera does not know what the hell he is talking about.  And I have to wonder whether some clumps of sticky tar-sandy dollars might have found their way into his pockets in return for the little PR gift he just gave, with flourishes, to the Canadian oil industry.

You will have to read Nocera’s column for yourself–I really can’t bear to summarize it.  Suffice it to say that he believes that:

  • 1) extracting the Canadian tar sands will make the US, and North America generally, “energy secure”;
  •  2) there is no point in pushing for energy conservation or a shift to renewable energy;
  • 3) Canadian tar sand oil “may be a little dirtier than the crude that pours forth from the Saudi Arabian desert…but is hardly the environmental disaster many suppose”;
  • 4) the US is foolish to cede our interest in this oil to the Chinese.

To which I (and some 300 other respondents to his column on, as of this writing) have to say, Joe, are you out of your mind????  Or are you just being willfully blind?

Yesterday I was writing about the holocaust of harp seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where for the past decade global heating has been melting the ice at an alarming rate, leaving newly born seal pups at the mercy of thin, fragile ice floes.  I have also been thinking a great deal about the Little Ice Age that seems to be occurring in Europe this winter.  While we here in New England are enjoying springlike temperatures and a total lack of snowfall, Europe is getting dumped on with snow, and frigid temperatures to boot.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find solid information about this in the NY Times or other mainstream press outlets, but if you look hard enough, it’s there.  Climate scientists are pointing to the steadily melting Arctic ice cap as the culprit in the change in wind and weather patterns that are bringing more extreme weather to Europe–remember the 2010 hot spells that cost hundreds of lives?  This severe cold is also to blame for hundreds of deaths.

Let’s connect the dots.  Tar sands extraction can only be done by burning lots more fossil fuels.  That’s why environmentalists oppose it.  Not so much because of the destruction of millions of acres of pristine wildlife habitat, though that is generally acknowledged as sad collateral damage.

No, the main problem with extracting the Alberta tar sands is that doing so will speed the heating of the planet.  Heating the planet will lead to melting polar ice, rising sea levels, and ever more bizarre and destructive weather patterns.

Heating the planet will lead to death and destruction on a vast scale.

As the authors of a recent Royal Society special issue on climate change put it, if temperatures rise 4°C , “the limits for human adaptation are likely to be exceeded in many parts of the world, while the limits for adaptation for natural systems would largely be exceeded throughout the world. Hence, the ecosystem services upon which human livelihoods depend would not be preserved.”

This is science-speak for a basic premise I think anyone could understand: if the temperatures continue to rise, human beings, and the ecosystems that have evolved alongside us, are TOAST (expletive deleted).

Going full-bore at the Alberta tar sands is signing the final death sentence for millions and millions of living beings on this planet, including millions of human beings.

Humans in heretofore privileged spots on the globe, like Europe and the USA, will not be excepted from the general ecocide.

Do you have any children or grandchildren, Joe?

Can you really in good conscience assure them that selling the Alberta tar sands, to the US or the Chinese, will contribute to their “energy security”?

If you answer yes, then my original hypothesis is confirmed.

You are out of your (expletive deleted) mind.

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  1. Not only does this continue the warming of the globe, but investing in the pipeline to facilitate tar sand extraction means a continued lack of investment in renewable resources. We use the energy, yes, but there needs be much greater diversity of sources, particularly sources with minimal ‘collateral damage.’

  2. klem

     /  February 8, 2012

    I disagree, I think those crazy Canucks should dig every last ounce of thier oil out of the ground and sell it for as much as they can get for it. If the USA doesn’t want it, fine, they can sell it to the Chinese. Good for them.

    All I know is that I want gas for my big fast beautiful SUV, the more gas the better. If you want to ride a bicycle, eat tofu and buld a wind turbine, fine go ahead. It just means more gas for me.


  3. As an Aussie, I don’t know much about Canada, except that extracting the tar sands is an ecological disaster. Can’t we Aussies, Canadians and USA-ians drive smaller cars, or drive them less often?

  4. leavergirl

     /  February 11, 2012

    Well, klem’s right. He is pointing out the fallacy that all we need to do is stop using a resource to protect it. Ya can’t. The only way to protect a resource is to turn it into a commons which then is protected by all those who have a stake…. read Elinor Ostrom.

  5. scott smith

     /  February 15, 2012

    From what I can assertain, the oil that will be pumped through that pipeline will be sold and not used in the United States as much as they want you to believe that. The United States Congress is out of control and for all the wrong reasons. It is time to toss those bums out and start fresh.


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