From an open letter on April 7: “A critical first step is to stop making climate change worse by tapping into disproportionately carbon-intensive energy sources like tar sands bitumen. The Keystone XL pipeline will drive expansion of the energy-intensive strip-mining and drilling of tar sands from under Canada’s Boreal forest, increasing global carbon emissions. … [T]he State Department environmental review [used] business-as-usual energy scenarios that would lead to a catastrophic six degrees Celsius rise in global warming. … Six degrees Celsius of global warming has no place in a sound climate plan.” Full text and list of signers below.

An Open Letter on the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline from Scientists and Economists

April 7 , 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Secretary John Kerry
U. S . Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry,

As scientists and economists, we are concerned about climate change and its impacts. We urge you to reject the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline as a project that will contribute to climate change at a time when we should be doing all we can to put clean energy alternatives in place.

As you both have made clear, climate change is a very serious problem. We must address climate change by decarbonizing our energy supply. A critical first step is to stop making climate change worse by tapping into disproportionately carbon-intensive energy sources like tar sands bitumen. The Keystone XL pipeline will drive expansion of the energy-intensive strip-mining and drilling of tar sands from under Canada’s Boreal forest, increasing global carbon emissions. Keystone XL is a step in the wrong direction.

President Obama, you said in your speech in Georgetown last year that “allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

We agree that climate impact is important and evidence shows that Keystone XL will significantly contribute to climate change. Fuels produced from tar sands result in more greenhouse gas emissions over their lifecycle than fuels produced from conventional oil, including heavy crudes processed in some Gulf Coast refineries. As the main pathway for tar sands to reach overseas markets, the Keystone XL pipeline would cause a sizeable expansion of tar sands production and also an increase in the related greenhouse gas pollution. The State Department review confirmed this analysis under the scenario that best meets the reality of the opposition to alternative pipeline proposals and the higher costs of other ways of transporting diluted bitumen such as rail. The review found:

“The total life cycle emissions associated with production, refining, and combustion of 830,000 bpd of oil sands crude oil is approximately 147 to 168 MMTCO2e per year. The annual lifecycle GHG emissions from 830,000 bpd of the four reference crudes examined in this section are estimated to be 124 to 159 MMTCO2e. The range of incremental GHG emissions for crude oil that would be transported by the proposed Project is estimated to be 1.3 to 27.4 MMTCO2e annually.”

To put these numbers into perspective, the potential incremental annual emissions of 27.4 MMTCO2e is more than the emissions that seven coal-fired power plants emit in one year. And over the 50-year expected life span of the pipeline, the total emissions from Keystone XL could amount to as much as 8.4 billion metric tons CO2e. These are emissions that can and should be avoided with a transition to clean energy.

The contribution of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to climate change is real and important, especially given the commitment of the United States and other world leaders to stay within two degrees Celsius of global warming. And yet, the State Department environmental review chose an inconsistent model for its “most likely” scenarios, using business-as-usual energy scenarios that would lead to a catastrophic six degrees Celsius rise in global warming. Rejecting Keystone XL is necessary for the United States to be consistent with its climate commitments. Six degrees Celsius of global warming has no place in a sound climate plan.

Secretary Kerry, in your speech in Jakarta, you said, “The science of climate change is leaping out at us like a scene from a 3D movie — warning us — compelling us to act.” Rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be a decision based on sound science.

The world is looking to the United States to lead through strong climate action at home. This includes rejecting projects that will make climate change worse such as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline .


John Abraham, Ph.D., Professor, University of St. Thomas

Philip W. Anderson, Ph.D., Nobel Prize (Physics 1977), Emeritus Professor, Princeton University

Tim Arnold, Ph.D., Assistant Project Scientist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

Kenneth J. Arrow, Ph.D., Nobel Prize (Economics 1972), Professor emeritus of Economics and of Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University

Roger Bales, Ph.D., Professor of Engineering, University of California, Merced 

Paul H. Beckwith, M.S., Part-time professor: climatology/meteorology, Department of Geography, University of Ottawa

Anthony Bernhardt, Ph.D., Physicist and Program Leader (retired), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Damien C. Brady, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Marine Science, Darling Marine Center, University of Maine

Julie A. Brill, Ph.D., Director, Collaborative Program in Developmental Biology, and Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto; Senior Scientist, Cell Biology Program, The Hospital for Sick Children

Gary Brouhard, Ph.D., Department of Biology, McGill University

Ken Caldeira, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Carnegie Institution for Science

Grant Cameron, Ph.D., Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP), Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

Shelagh D. Campbell, Ph.D., Professor, Biological Sciences, University of Alberta

Kai M. A. Chan, Ph.D., Associate Professor & Tier 2 Canada Research Chair (Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services), Graduate Advisor, RMES Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability, University of British Columbia

Eugene Cordero, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Meteorology and Climate Science, San Jose State University

Rosemary Cornell, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Simon Fraser University

Gretchen C. Daily, Ph.D., Bing Professor of Environmental Science, Stanford University

Timothy Daniel, Ph.D., Economist, U.S. Federal Trade Commission

Miriam Diamond, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, Cross-appointed to: Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Sciences, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, School of the Environment, Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, University of Toronto

Lawrence M. Dill, Ph.D., FRSC, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University

Simon Donner, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia

Roland Droitsch, Ph.D., President, KM21 Associates

Nicholas Dulvy, Ph.D., Professor, Canada Research Chair in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University

Steve Easterbrook, Ph.D., Professor of Computer Science, University of Toronto

Anne Ehrlich, Ph.D., Biology Department, Stanford University

Paul R. Ehrlich, Ph.D., Bing Professor of Population Studies and President, Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University

Henry Erlich, Ph.D., Scientist, Center for Genetics, Children’s Hospital Research Institute

Alejandro Frid, Ph.D., Science Coordinator, Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance

Konrad Gajewski, Ph.D., Laboratory for Paleoclimatology and Climatology, Department of Geography, University of Ottawa

Eric Galbraith, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Earth and Planetary Science, McGill University

Geoffrey Gearheart, Ph.D., Scientist, Center for Marine Biodiversity and Biomedicine, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

Alexander J. Glass, Ph.D., Emeritus Associate Director, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

John R. Glover, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Biochemistry, University of Toronto

Ursula Goodenough, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis

Stephanie Green, Ph.D., David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow, Oregon State University

Steven Hackett, Ph.D., Professor of Economics, Associated Faculty, Energy Technology & Policy, Humboldt State University

Joshua B. Halpern, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Chemistry, Howard University

Alexandra Hangsterfer, M.S., Geological Collections Manager, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

James Hansen, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions, Columbia University Earth Institute

John Harte, Ph.D., Professor of Ecosystem Sciences, Energy and Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley

H. Criss Hartzell, Ph.D., Professor, Emory University School of Medicine

Danny Harvey, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Geography, University of Toronto

Rodrick A. Hay, Ph.D., Dean and Professor of Geography, College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, California State University Dominguez Hills

Karen Holl, Ph.D., Professor of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz

Robert Howarth, Ph.D., The David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology & Environmental Biology, Cornell University

Jonathan Isham, Jr., Ph.D., Professor of Economics, Middlebury College

Andrew Iwaniuk, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Lethbridge

Mark Jaccard, Ph.D., FRSC, Professor, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University

Louise E. Jackson, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, University of California Davis

Pete Jumars, Ph.D., Professor of Marine Sciences, Darling Marine Center, University of Maine

David Keith, Ph.D., Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS); and, Professor of Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Jeremy T. Kerr, Ph.D., University Research Chair in Macroecology and Conservation, Professor of Biology, University of Ottawa

Bryan Killett, Ph.D., Jet Propulsion Lab

Keith W. Kisselle, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology & Environmental Science, Academic Chair of Center for Environmental Studies, Austin College

Janet E. Kübler, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, California State University at Northridge

Sherman Lewis, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Political Science, California State University Hayward

Michael E. Loik, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz

Michael C. MacCracken, Ph.D., Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs, Climate Institute

Scott A. Mandia, M.S., Professor/Asst. Chair, Department of Physical Sciences, Suffolk County Community College

Michael Mann, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and Director of Earth System Science Center, Penn State University

Adam Martiny, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Marine Science, Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine

Damon Matthews, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Concordia University Research Chair, Geography, Planning and Environment, Concordia University

James J. McCarthy, Ph.D., Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography, Harvard University

Susan K. McConnell, Ph.D., Susan B. Ford Professor, Dunlevie Family University Fellow, Department of Biology, Stanford University

Dominick Mendola, Ph.D., Senior Development Engineer, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

Faisal Moola, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto; and, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University

William Moomaw, Ph.D., Professor, The Fletcher School, Tufts University

Jens Mühle, Dr. rer. nat., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

Richard B. Norgaard, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Energy and Resources, University of California, Berkeley

Gretchen North, Ph.D., Professor of Biology, Occidental College

Dana Nuccitelli, M.S., Environmental Scientist, Tetra Tech, Inc.

Michael Oppenheimer, Ph.D., Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs, Princeton University

Wendy J. Palen, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Earth to Ocean Research Group, Simon Fraser University

Edward A. Parson, Ph.D., Dan and Rae Emmett Professor of Environmental Law, Faculty Co-Director, Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment, UCLA School of Law

Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, Ph.D., Louis Block Professor in the Geophysical Sciences, The University of Chicago

Richard Plevin, Ph.D., Research Scientist, NextSTEPS (Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways), Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis

John Pollack, M.S., Meteorologist; and, National Weather Service forecaster (retired)

Jessica Dawn Pratt, Ph.D., Education & Outreach Coordinator, Center for Environmental Biology, University of California, Irvine

Lynne M. Quarmby, Ph.D., Professor & Chair, Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, Simon Fraser University

Rebecca Rolph, M.S., Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany; and, Klimacampus, University of Hamburg

Thomas Roush, MD, Columbia University School of Public Health (retired)

Maureen Ryan, Ph.D., Research Associate, Simon Fraser University; and, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Washington

Anne K. Salomon, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University

Casey Schmidt, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor, Desert Research Institute, Division of Hydrologic Sciences

Peter C. Schulze, Ph.D., Professor of Biology & Environmental Science, Director, Center for Environmental Studies, Austin College

Jason Scorse, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Monterrey Institute of International Studies, Middlebury College

Jamie Scott, MD, Ph.D., Professor and Canada Research Chair, Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, Faculty of Science and Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University

Michael A. Silverman, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University

Leonard S. Sklar, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Earth & Climate Sciences Department, San Francisco State University

Jerome A. Smith, Ph.D., Research Oceanographer, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

Richard C. J. Somerville, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Research Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

Brandon M. Stephens, M.S., Graduate Student Researcher, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

John M. R. Stone, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Carleton University

David Suzuki, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor, Sustainable Development Research Institute, University of British Columbia

Jennifer Taylor, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of California, San Diego

Michael S. Tift, M.S., Doctoral Student, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

Cali Turner Tomaszewicz, M.S., Doctoral Student, Biological Sciences, Department of Ecology, Behavior & Evolution, University of California, San Diego

Till Wagner, Ph.D., Scientist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

Barrie Webster, Ph.D., Professor (retired), University of Manitoba

Richard Weinstein, Ph.D., Lecturer, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Anthony LeRoy Westerling, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering and Geography, University of California, Merced 

Mark L. Winston, Ph.D., FRSC, Academic Director and Fellow, Center for Dialogue, Simon Fraser University

George M. Woodwell, Ph.D., Member, National Academy of Sciences, and Founder and Director Emeritus, The Woods Hole Research Center 

Kirsten Zickfeld, Ph.D., Professor of Climatology, Simon Fraser University

*    *    *


Natural Resources Defense Council: More than 100 scientists and economists call for rejection of Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

“The letter comes at a critical time when President Obama and Secretary Kerry are in the process of making their determination about whether the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is in the national interest. The signers of the letter are leaders in science and economics, including in climate change research. They added their voices to the 2 million public comments sent to President Obama and Secretary Kerry calling for a rejection of Keystone XL, and to the more than 200 business voiceswhose letter to Secretary Kerry calling for rejection of Keystone XL was released last week.”

Bloomberg BusinessWeek, April 1: Silicon Valley’s Elite Comes Out Against the Keystone XL

“In a March 7 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that was made public on Monday, more than 200 business owners, venture capitalists, and the odd Stanford B-school professor have asserted that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is not in the economic interests of the U.S. …

“[W]hat is notable is the number of prominent signatories from Silicon Valley—and not just solar energy and ‘clean tech’ companies betting on a move away from fossil fuels. …”

Environmental Entrepreneurs letter to Secretary Kerry and list of signers

“E2 is a non-partisan, national community of business leaders who promote strong environmental policy to grow the economy. We are entrepreneurs, investors, and professionals from every sector of the economy who collectively have been involved in financing, creating or working in the early development of more than 1,700 companies, which have created over 570,000 jobs. Our members manage over $175 billion in private equity capital that will flow over the next several years into new companies. In recent years, the economic impacts of climate change have become increasingly clear. Climate change fueled by carbon pollution has contributed to more frequent and more intense weather events that impose rising economic costs. There is little overall economic benefit to the United States from approval of the project – it would create just 35 new permanent jobs – yet the pipeline would play an important role in creating enormous future harms to our economy. …”

Some earlier CSW posts:

Comment to State Department on Keystone XL pipeline “National Interest Determination”

More on why Keystone XL is not in the national or global interest

On Keystone XL, John Kerry, and the global interest

Keystone XL tar sands pipeline & the “National Interest”

Scientists call on President to reject the Keystone XL pipeline

Letter from scientists calling on Obama to block the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline