“Based on science”

Speeches and press releases by Canadian Cabinet Ministers frequently claim that the U.S. will approve the Keystone XL pipeline assuming its decision is based on science and the economic benefits that Keystone will bring to both countries.

Generally the reference to science is followed by other words that belittle environmental objections to tar sands oil.  Ed Fast, Canada’s Trade Minister, employed these verbal strategies in his latest contribution to the public relations battle that Canada is waging in the U.S.  Mr. Fast added:  “We know that environmental politics has played a role in disseminating misinformation of Keystone XL”.

So what is “the science” on which Mr. Fast bases his claim? These speeches and press releases never contain further information.  Possibly the Communications Officers who prepare these releases understand that trying to be specific on science will only create confusion as Ministers, for example Joe Oliver, try to explain what they were talking about.

The Globe & Mail article on Mr. Fast’s remarks made reference to a letter written by “academics” who point out that the development of the oil sands would leave “no hope” of keeping global warming at a reasonable level. These “academics” happen to be eighteen of the top climate scientists in the U.S.

The Canadian Government also defends Keystone on the ground that it will not add additional Greenhouse gases since the U.S. will continue to burn refined Venezuelan heavy crude, a fossil fuel that is allegedly a large emitter.  In effect this defense tacitly acknowledges that the world is doomed to suffer global warming regardless of the origin of the oil needed to supply U.S. demand for energy.

The other part of the case for Keystone is that it will bring economic benefits. These are relatively short term benefits.  In the longer term the world cannot continue on the path of global warming.  The billions of dollars to be invested in fossil fuel infrastructure will be “stranded”, a point emphasized by Professor Dan Harvey of the University of Toronto in his commentary “Forget Pipelines – Canada must prepare for a post-carbon world.”

Professor Harvey’s analysis is based upon science in the reports of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  If the approval decision is based on the science in those reports, Keystone does not stand a chance!

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