In one of the largest environmentally related demonstrations in history, the Sierra Club organized a protest of approximately 40,000 people at the Washington Monument over the weekend in Washington, D.C. in protest of the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and other climate issues, according to a report by CNN.
The demonstrators urged President Barack Obama to take action on a variety of climate issues, and stopping the Keystone pipeline was the central message.
The Keystone pipeline is a system to transport synthetic crude oil and diluted bitumen from the Athabasca oil sands region in northeastern Canada to multiple destinations in the US, traversing the nation to destination refineries in Montana, Oklahoma and Texas.
Why is bitumen bad for the environment? Mining tar sands to extract bitumen to convert it to gasoline releases three times more carbon dioxide than typical oil production. American voices are not alone in protest against the oil sands. Canadian environmental groups like the Water Research Institute are spending $15 million dollars to prevent the “runoff toxins from collecting in the tar sand pools from seeping into nearby water supplies,” according to the Canadian research institute Foundation for the Future.
The tar sands are located in Alberta, Canada’s boreal forest, which is considered an untouched ecosystem known for its biodiversity. It is one of the largest intact ecosystems in the world.
Obama told Congress and the American people four years ago that he would, “transform our economy, protect our security and save our planet from the ravages of climate change.” The president’s first term was fraught by confrontations with Congress on the economy, and climate change has been left to fend for itself; however, since earning the vote of the American people for a second term, he can reaffirm the promises of his first term.
This time, however, the difference is presenting climate change not only as a real and present danger, but also linking the climate crisis to the economy and the responsibility of every American moving forward for ourselves and future generations.
In anticipation of Republican dissent and calls that environmental projects are costly and not a priority, connections to environmental proposals and economic stability were cited. To gather bipartisan support, Obama called for compromise. In his 2013 State of the Union speech he said, “I urge Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan market-based solutions to climate change.”
How urgent is climate change?
Global emissions of carbon dioxide were at a record high in 2011 and were likely to take a similar jump in 2012, scientists reported in early December 2012. The latest indication that efforts to limit such emissions are failing, reported the New York Times.
Over all, global emissions jumped 3 percent in 2011 and are expected to jump another 2.6 percent in 2012, researchers say.
The United Nations Conference on climate change met last December, and the reports predict catastrophic events if action is not taken now.
Carbon emissions must be decreased or prepare for the collapse of whole ecosystems—the boreal forest in Canada could be the beginning of such events. Further, the demise of ecosystems worldwide like the Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon River Basin could be responsible for the extinction fish species plunging areas of the world into starvation and loss of livelihood.
In “Turn Down the Heat,” a report commissioned by environmental activists, the World Bank predicts a grim future where crop yields are reduced due to severe droughts. The US experienced one of the worst droughts in history in 2012. Recurring droughts like this one can result in disease outbreaks and illnesses, social unrest, and a general mistrust of government agencies to provide for and protect citizens.
In 2010, a United Nations Environment Program report studied 18 regions of the world and predicted productivity would fall in most areas by 2050, and fisheries would be reduced to being dominated by smaller species at the bottom of the food chain, according to a Reuters report.
It’s been more than 20 years since articles in scientific journals started reporting what they called “global warming.” Scientists, scholars and academics began describing theories, hypotheses and results of empirical experiments. The collection of these publications is the “currency” used by the scientific community in volume and quality to bring climate change out of the realm of “futurist predictions” into current climate manifestations around the world in terms of increasing carbon emissions, rising sea levels and extreme weather.
Climate change affects every part of our lives, from the food available for consumption, the kind of energy we use in our homes, transportation, the kind of work we choose and our cultural heritage. One of the most devastating affects is on our health from over exposure to UV rays, leading to allergies and respiratory illnesses.
The urgency for addressing climate change is evident all around us. We have gone from “no one believes it” in the 1950s to “everyone knows about it” in 2013. Scientific facts reveal that we can no longer deny the reality of climate change. We need to support national and global initiatives to address it now or it will be too late.