Stephen McDavid interviewed by CBC/SRC about climate change action:
Stephen explains that the pipeline is a line in the sand. Using it, is crossing that line. I’ll explain why there is a line, further on in this post.
I know some people don’t see the big deal with the Keystone XL pipeline, thinking it’s just another way that people can make money. It’s more like a doomsday device, than economic stimulus. Taking into account the truth that burning all of the bitumen in the Alberta tar sands will create enough carbon dioxide to push climate change past +2 degrees Celsius, a pipe intended to be used for that purpose will be seen as a crime against humanity by most people within a few short generations of now. Already, some people understand it to be that.
To meet a halfway reasonable carbon budget in our atmosphere, there’s no good use for the Keystone XL pipeline. To have to shut it down, and clean it up later in order to correct the error today in building it, is a huge folly that Obama can stop.
It’s widely accepted by people that our daily lives cause pollution, and it’s a sort of price we pay for progress. More people need to question what sort of progress we’re striving for as a species. It’s not like we’re trying to stop 7-Eleven from selling drinks that cause diabetes and obesity and kills a few thousand humans indirectly; we’re trying to stop investment in a technology whose use is known to cause so much pollution as to create catastrophic changes to our atmosphere, and will hasten the extinction of countless species and displacement of countless people. It’s a very, very big deal, and that the Harper government in Ottawa sees fit to label peaceful protesters as “adversaries”, “enemies of the state”, and “terrorists”, is in itself terrifying.
Here are the numbers behind why we must not burn all of the fossil fuel we are technologically capable of extracting with today’s technology.
First of all, let’s assume that we don’t burn any of the unconventional fossil fuels that are on the US side of the border, because, after all, we’re not that stupid. So we’re just talking about the Canadian reserves, the ones that might be headed down the Keystone XL pipeline. Each barrel of oil-sands crude contains about .88 tonnes of CO2 (this is WWF’s number; it’s rough, but let’s use it anyway), so if we take just the Canadian reserves (315 billion probable barrels) that comes to 277 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide. If we instead take total North American reserves, the damage comes to 980 Gigatonnes of CO2. That would blow the entire “safe” global carbon budget, all by itself. As if we weren’t well on the way to doing it anyway. Which is to say that, as Hansen put it a few years back, “squeezing oil from shale mountains is not an option that would allow our planet and its inhabitants to survive.”
I’d rather survive, and give others in the future a chance at a life close to as wonderful as I’ve had. To say nothing is wrong now, knowing what I can from these facts, would be immoral. Yes, it’s unpopular to point out that some peoples’ livelihoods today are contributing to climate destruction. I don’t hold very many individuals personally responsible for this destruction; this is a problem caused by everyone, and we need our societies to discuss what we can do to start collectively working on a grand scale in a more constructive direction.
I read this quote today, and I had to include it:
Not that I know how you change the world. I’ve more or less spent my life on the sidelines, daydreaming, drinking beer, watching sports. But it seems to me, just from what I know about Jackie Robinson and what I’ve seen from my wife, that maybe you change the world by just continuing to show up, by continuing to say to the world, Here I Am. You change the world by reaching for happiness.