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Top NASA Climatologist Protests Transnational Oil Pipeline

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Elianna Mintz

James Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, addresses a crowd of protesters at a White House climate change rally in October 2010. “We have a planetary emergency,” Hansen, an adjunct professor at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and at Columbia’s Earth Institute, told reporters Monday. (Credit: Chesapeake Climate)

As President Obama’s deadline to approve or disapprove licensing of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline draws closer, NASA’s lead climatologist, Dr. James Hansen, addressed reporters at the National Press Club to explain the grave consequences of approving such a project.

“We have a planetary emergency,” Hansen, an adjunct professor at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and at Columbia’s Earth Institute, told reporters Monday.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is a proposed 1,700 mile pipeline system that would be utilized to transport crude oil from Canada to oil refineries in the midwestern region of the US. Environmentalists, including some in Congress, oppose it on the grounds that it could disrupt and taint domestic clean water supplies, and could jeopardize efforts to shift to clean energy sources.

Hansen argued that if humans continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, 20-40 percent of species on the planet will become extinct by the end of the century. The hydraulic cycle, he said, has become more extreme, resulting in extreme floods and drought intensification. Coral reefs are being destroyed, sea levels are lowering and glaciers are receding, causing rivers to run dry, he added.

Hansen warned that if the next phase of the Keystone pipeline is approved, America will continue to feed its “oil addiction” and will continue to burn fossil fuels, further destroying the environment.

“Fossil fuels are finite,” Hansen stated. “We’ll have to move to clean energy at some point so we may as well do it before we burn all the fossil fuels and ruin the future of our children.”

Hansen was among the first group of scientists to spread such warnings of global warming 30 years ago. Frustrated that his cries over the threat of climate change was going unheard, Hansen turned to civil disobedience in 2009. He has been arrested twice for protesting mountaintop removal coal mining, once in West Virginia and once outside the White House.

Following his remarks at the NPC, Hansen joined more than 60 religious leaders outside the White House to spread awareness of the environmental dangers of the Keystone XL pipeline as part of a civil disobedience act that has been going on for weeks.

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