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Redford writes: "The wake up call that Hurricane Sandy gave us was but one of many just in the last year."

Actor and environmental activist Robert Redford. (photo: Contour/Getty Images)
Actor and environmental activist Robert Redford. (photo: Contour/Getty Images)

Another Looming Cliff of Grave Consequence

By Robert Redford, Reader Supported News

04 January 13


he wake up call that Hurricane Sandy gave us was but one of many just in the last year. We can see that climate change is happening all around the country after the wildfires, droughts, floods and violent storms of 2012. So when President Obama said it was time to deal with global warming in his victory speech, that made perfect sense.

Why then would one of the first decisions after the election be to ignore the climate impacts of one of the dirtiest energy projects out there? That doesn't make any sense.

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is winding its way through a State Department environmental review process. The State Department messed up last time around. They didn't include climate and a lot of other concerns that people along the pipeline path have. After the President rejected this pipeline earlier this year and TransCanada reapplied for a presidential permit for the northern section, the State Department got another chance to get it right.

It begs the question then, why does it look like they are going to get it wrong?

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a disaster in the making. It will cause expansion of the expensive and dirty tar sands oil excavation up in Canada's Boreal forest. It threatens our own farms, and waters throughout our heartland. And it is going to make climate change worse as more tarry gunk is dug up, turned into gasoline and diesel and burned in cars and trucks.

All of this is for a pipeline that is meant to export tar sand oil overseas from America's Gulf Coast. Our heartland, aquifers and climate are meant to sustain us. Instead the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline means that we take all the risks - from pipeline leaks and blows to the aftermath of toxic pools of wastewater - and Big Oil reaps all the benefits. Canadians know better - they haven't let new tar sands pipeline be built yet to either of their own coasts. In fact, the proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline to the west coast is considered dead by many.

It only makes sense to get the environmental review right. And that means taking a hard look at the climate impacts.

This is a time for climate leadership. So, instead of a shoddy Keystone XL environmental review, the first major climate action for this Administration's second term should be to set limits on climate change pollution from power plants. That is the kind of action that makes sense.

And then it will make sense to reject this dirty energy project. With extreme weather taking its toll on communities all over America, we can't afford another major dirty energy project such as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

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+62 # fredboy 2013-01-04 13:57
And, as the saying goes, you ain't seen nothing yet. Southwest Florida's coastline erupts in year-round bacteria fed by the countless tons of fertilizer allowed to stream from golf courses and lawns. Massive super hurricanes that will make the Sandy 'perfect storm' seem almost minimal. And perpetual drought in the middle of the U.S. Hell is coming--and we invited it.
+70 # Pickwicky 2013-01-04 14:03
Redford--have you thought about running for public office?
+37 # X Dane 2013-01-04 16:00

I think Redford can have more influence as a private citizen, but he need to be speaking out publicly at venues where a LOT of people will hear him.
He has the great name recognition, and I think he could do a great deal of good. There are still many people who do not know about the Keystone pipeline.

And some who HAS heard of it mistakenly thinks it is oil WE will use. They think we need more domestic oil.
We sure do NOT need that kind.

As stated by the nation's foremost, climate scientist, DR. James Hansen of NASA. The Keystone oil would be "game over for the planet" and it sure would be for our most important aquifers and agriculture states, for the gritty sludge in the pipeline cause them to break much more often than regular oil pipelines.

In addition, this oil is much more difficult to clean up, because it is so heavy and it sinks to the bottom in any waters. So as Dave points out WE are taking ALL the RISKS for oil that would be shipped overseas, to...most likely ...China.
I also think he has an excellent point in suggesting that refineries be built in North Dakota, where the oil is.

+3 # Rita Walpole Ague 2013-01-05 10:12
Pickwicky, what a terrific thought ! A dream come true for all we the sheeple - Michael Moore and Robert Redford for Pres. and V.P. in '16. Might be the way (no, Hillary won't cut it) to avoid a full blown revolution/impl osion.

The evil villainaire rulers would puke and shake constantly, as they got election fraud frantically into gear, should such a real McCoy people/planet serving team appear.
+1 # CL38 2013-01-05 11:18
He's in his late 70's.
+40 # DaveM 2013-01-04 14:09
If we are to continue using petroleum products--and we will--the least we can do is minimize the potential environmental impact. I suggest that the money intended to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline (which will carry oil primarily for foreign markets)be directed instead to building new refineries in the booming oil fields of North Dakota. Keep all the mess in one area, create new refinery capacity in an area that does not have hurricanes, create American jobs, and increase (for the time being) America's energy independence. Rail infrastructure already exists for the transport of refined petroleum products from North Dakota.

All of the problems associated with using/burning petroleum products will still exist of course. But if an impact on our environment is to be made, let it be for the benefit of the United States. let this country serve as more than a right of way for a pipeline which will not serve this country in any way.
+3 # mdhome 2013-01-08 01:50
Why not? If the damn stuff is going to be dug up, makes perfect sense to refine it on site and transport the final product. So much easier I cannot figure why they would gamble on the likelihood of a major spill endangering the "breadbasket" of the country.
+34 # MidwestTom 2013-01-04 14:10
Before going into big changes for global warming, why not start with some simple things like outlawing drive-up windows, where long lines of cars frequently sit idling. Also, limit any engine idling to 5 minutes, including trucks. At the typical truck stop one sees as many os 200 trucks idling while the drivers are in eating and showering. Engines are least efficient when idling, meaning that their exhaust is the dirtiest when idling. Just mandate it.
+2 # independentmind 2013-01-07 16:38
In Germany you already have to do that. If you are waiting at an intersection for a train to go by, everyone shuts off their engines. Every little bit helps.
-34 # Jonathan Levy 2013-01-04 14:33
I agree that the fossil fuel industry is a planetary menace, not due to carbon, but due to the fact our waters have been destroyed by oil along with the toxins in the air from burning and refining. Renewables such as solar cannot be centrally controlled and will put the power back with the people, however, anthropogenic climate change is very very far from proven as CO2 that is human produced only accounts for a miniscule fraction of greenhouse gases, the vast majority of which is water vapor. This fantasy will lead to taxing you and I for driving and put the globalists in our pocket and once they are there, they will grab a hell of a lot more. Meanwhile, we take our eye off the real pollutants.
+14 # Granny Weatherwax 2013-01-04 19:11
You mean water vapor?
Get real.

If you really want to point fingers, how about HFC, used to replace CFC after the ozone layer holes were (properly) assigned to them?
HFC are produced BECAUSE of their properties that make their greenhouse effect on the order of 30 000 (that is thirty thousands) times that of CO2.
Don't believe me, check it out.

This is the reason I never refilled the air conditioning of the old car I use here in Costa Rica. 500g of HFC amount to 15 metric tons of CO2 when to comes to greenhouse effect.
+6 # Ray Kondrasuk 2013-01-04 21:18
You're right, Jonathon, about CO2 being a miniscule trace in the atmosphere, at 392.92 ppm as of November 2012 (; water vapor is by far the greatest of all heat-trappers.

But water vapor varies by day and region, which is why the weather person cites relative humidity percentages.

Infrared-absorbing CO2, though, distributes itself equally through the atmosphere, re-radiating the trapped heat. Warmer air can then carry more moisture. Remember how powdery a 10-degree snowfall is, and how heavy it is, a backbreaker to shovel, at 30 degrees?

Positive feedback: CO2 seems the most likely cause of 4% more water vapor in the last thirty years.
+7 # tbcrawford 2013-01-04 14:42
Thank you and Amen!
+32 # handskhan 2013-01-04 14:42
There are two sectors of the industry which override any reason or sensible attitude. These two sectors are Energy and War Industry. War for the sake of Energy helps both Sectors but makes a big mess of the Environment. Pollution and Environment is put on the back burner to be dealt by someone else at some other time.
+15 # Old Man 2013-01-04 16:20
Quoting handskhan:
There are two sectors of the industry which override any reason or sensible attitude. These two sectors are Energy and War Industry. War for the sake of Energy helps both Sectors but makes a big mess of the Environment. Pollution and Environment is put on the back burner to be dealt by someone else at some other time.

It always has been....what a shame.
+8 # Depressionborn 2013-01-04 15:14
Isn’t it great that finally we have a man of Robert Redford’s prominence who realizes that horses are better than tractors and ox carts better than old smelly trains.
+11 # Utopia Bold 2013-01-04 15:18
Back to the future-if we're lucky! And oxen and horses dont pollute-they make manure to grow crops with!
-9 # Leadyourself 2013-01-04 15:31

This may hurt.

As a writer you are a

GENIUS Actor/Director/Producer/Visionary

American Icon.

I have NO IDEA what you are talking about

here and I'm pretty up on stuff.

(Check out my "It's The Schools Stupid!" which

is on the RSN main page for 35 days so far

to see some proof.)

The truth is,so MANY bad things have come

down the "pipeline" to we Americans recently that

your LITERAL bad pipeline (and your gist

sounds pretty evil) won't even register.

The solution is simple.


this story with YOU hosting the videos.

(facts: "YOU TUBE" was the 2nd most-searched

Internet term for the past 2 years. Get this: in

one month 800,000,000 different people look at


(Not mere "M"illions but BbbILLIONS).

Both my partner in UnderstandingME dia I /

on YOU TUBE --Cabell Smith; who was Hollywood's

first WOMAN Sound Engineer in the 119-year

History of major motion pictures) and myself will

be happy to donate our creative to help you

stop this LATEST nightmare.

We like to think our work makes people


"Who ARE those guys????"
+22 # Jonathan Levy 2013-01-04 18:01
You can start contributing by not double spacing and using 95 lines unnecessarily and annoyingly, along with capital letters to emphasize points instead of intelligent writing.
+3 # X Dane 2013-01-04 21:24

I rally don't understand your comment, I think Redford is pretty clear, so why don't you understand, what he is talking about, also "Who ARE those guys????" What do you mean? Do you want to help Redford .....and ALL of us? Please tell us how?
+10 # CL38 2013-01-05 11:24
Redford has been an environmental activist, speaking out for decades. Years ago, he brought together environmentalis ts and the business community to begin the process of finding agreement and writing environmental protection bills, many of which were passed.
+1 # nova 2013-01-06 19:25
Please explain your cryptic message to those of us that can read. I know you are trying to make a point and I'm sure I am not the only one that wants to know what it is. Please translate your comment into english. Thank You
+6 # Smokey 2013-01-04 15:37
Energy, energy, energy.... All of the big issues in the energy conversation - climate change is one of many - are related.
-42 # egbegb 2013-01-04 16:08
It sounds very much like "getting it right" is agreeing with the renowned climate scientist Robert Redford. Anything less would be flawed. What about the other 55,000 miles of oil pipelines; should we rip them all up?
-19 # Jonathan Levy 2013-01-04 17:40
The oil industry is a polluting disgrace and we ought to get off oil for sure, however, RSN readers represent the self-avowed liberal populace who pays no more heed to science than the right does, unfortunately. Rather than think for themselves or study an issue, they repeat, and pretend their repetition is studying the issue. We've got an ocean layered with oil and pipelines spilling all over the place and they are worried about carbon, of which the human emissions account for about 1/7 of 1% of the greenhouse gases (which are majority water vapor by far) and since no mathematical model can remotely predict temp changes, assuming humans have caused global warming is idiocy. Ice Ages happened and previous warming periods happened without knowledge of the cause so why pretend we know the cause now? Global government, global taxation, global control. That's what the self-avowed liberals want and they walk like sheep into their own slaughter, voting for Barack Obama as if he is their friend while he sells them out in collusion with the republicans time and time again.
-6 # Jonathan Levy 2013-01-04 17:55
"1/7 of 1%" that is
+3 # Ray Kondrasuk 2013-01-04 21:43

Ice ages and warming have previously come and gone, that's true.

Climate changes according to whatever forces it to change, which is the amount of sunlight striking the earth and the amount of that solar energy that is retained or re-radiated.

Solar warming triggers CO2 outgassing from oceans which reinforces the warming.

Very small but measurable shifts in the orientation of the axis, its tilt, and the slight elliptical change in orbit (precession, obliquity, and eccentricity) vary by tens of thousands of years.
(Hats off to the Serbian mathematician, Milutin Malenkovitch... those periods now bear his name)

Please invest 12 minutes to enjoy the clear graphics of greenman3810's video:
+1 # Ray Kondrasuk 2013-01-04 22:40
Oooops... that's "greenman3610".

Like it? View an equally good series at "potholer54".
0 # CL38 2013-01-05 11:25
See my comment to Leadyourself above.
0 # X Dane 2013-01-05 15:55
Please will all of you kindly write the name of the commenter you are responding to, so we can be sure. Sometimes it is confusing.

In this case I realize who you are responding to CL. However it is far from clear in many instances, where a reply to a comment may come much further removed from it.
+9 # Vardoz 2013-01-04 16:21
People will die and our tax dollars will not be there to help us when disaster strikes and it will more and more.
+16 # BlueReview 2013-01-04 16:42
What Mr. Redford didn't go into is that there are already reports that the pipeline being built is known to be flawed--there are reports of "bad welding practices and improper coating of pipelines."
+2 # X Dane 2013-01-05 16:11
I have read the same, so it makes it almost certain that we will see some kind of disaster apart from the whole terribly wrong project, that MUST be stopped.

I got a message yesterday from "Public Citizen" They are organizing.... "The largest climate change demonstration in history??"

It will take place in February, to call on Obama to stop the pipeline and lead on Climate change.
+6 # Trueblue Democrat 2013-01-04 16:55
"Why then would one of the first [of Obama's]decisio ns after the election be to ignore the climate impacts of one of the dirtiest energy projects out there?"

It would be easy just to say, "because Obama is a phony." Which is true, but looking a bit deeper, about why it appears that the State Department is going to get it wrong again. Because the "study" being conducted by the State Department is overseen by a revolving-door poster child with many, many years working for the industry that's pushing this travesty.
+5 # mdhome 2013-01-04 17:08
Let them refine it right at the mine, ship the gasoline/fuel from there, we do not need all that sand scrubbing a hole in the pipeline and causing a major spill that ruins a major water supply. pipe it to Quebec for all I care.
+10 # Vardoz 2013-01-04 17:10
We are marked by reckless polluters as a sacrifice nation. Obama may lack the leadership skills to form a strong coalition to oppose the pipeline. It is up to us to try by calling our reps and tell them we strongly oppose the pipe line. I have already emailed Obama at Perhaps we will not succeed by trying but what do we have to lose?
+14 # chrisconnolly 2013-01-04 17:18
We are defecating on our life sources and people are quibbling about how many scientists agree on the details 100%. This pipeline is definitely a defecator that should be halted. It will benefit no one but the oil giants and will contaminate two of the most important of our life's needs, water and atmosphere. Not to mention the rights of the property owners who have no say in how their land is used. This is no longer a democracy of, by and for the people, but a revenue source for all the quickly becoming ungovernable corporates.
+17 # moby doug 2013-01-04 18:52
You've got to love Flat Earth Society geniuses like commenter "Jonathan Levy," who has convinced himself the relentless globalwarming of the last several decades is NOT manmade. I guess he knows something that 99% plus of the reputable scientists in the world don't. About the only "scientists" left who say globalwarming is NOT manmade are the intellectual whores working for disinformation corporations like EXXON.
+9 # Piaowaka 2013-01-04 19:35
Very well Said Mr. Redford. As a caretaker for this planet with much work for all of us to do, we need to start now. The Mother Earth is reacting to what we have done to her. The results are severe weather patterns that are only going to get worse unless we change and start working together to clean up the environment Take Care. Piaowaka
+4 # cekrause 2013-01-04 20:40
We cannot look to Obama to lead us into a future without fossil fuels; not when he proudly declares the US will be the #1 oil producer in the world by 2020. He cannot be trusted to fulfill any of the urgent 2nd term mandates we gave him. We really need Robert Redford to step up. Are you listening, Bob? We really need you! We really, reeeeeeeeeeeeee eally need you!
+3 # mgreen 2013-01-04 23:37
Robert Redford is doing a good job of raising the alarm. There is a much much greater danger simultaneously occurring: nuclear. Fukushima is spewing radiation in the Pacific Ocean and in the air that comes blowing West to East. Contamination is ALREADY here. Fish, food, water, people. Then our military spread radiation throughout the middle east and poisoned the sand which blows all over us. (See YouTube documentary: Beyond Treason)
So, Mr Redford and all, please look at YouTube on Fukushima. Then look there again at What Are They Spraying on US?!! Well, they are spraying neurotoxic aluminum and barium and each day the chem trails lace all of our skies. WHY do we not get a politician to write a bill that allows targeting of chem planes and give the Air Force guys some real practice. We need a law that saves our skies from poison. Mr Redford, you could save the horses. Save the skiers. Save the rich and famous. An unbuilt pipeline pales in comparison to Radiation poisoning of our food and water and chem trail poisons being dumped all over us NOW. You've got famous colleagues who could speak and organize and make a difference. Lets hope you can see the forest for the trees. We are old now so for us short timers this may indeed be what we can really act up about. Our legacy? We let them keep up radiation or stop it? Keep up chem trails or stop them? Oh, lets go to the movies and forget all about it!!! ????
+1 # Kathymoi 2013-01-04 23:48
There's the economic cliff, the climate cliff, the civil liberties cliff,
and we have already gone over the edge
of all of them
+3 # maykeeney 2013-01-05 07:13
Sad-to-say-that -the-Northern-G ateway-is-not-d ead.-Harper-has -been-systemati cally-gutting-a ll-federal-laws -that-offer-env ironmental-prot ection,-muzzlin g-scientists-(c limate-change-s cientists-can't -speak-to-media -without-govern ment-permission )and-totally-cu tting-or-severe ly-underfunding -environmental- science-project s-like-the-expe rimental-lakes- project,-the-en vironmental-rou ndtable-and-the -arctic-project -that-monitored -climate-change .-Hearings-for- the-Northern-Ga teway-pieline-h ave-started-in- British-Columbi a.-Only-present ers-are-allowed -at-the-hearing s.-Anyone-else- has-to-watch-th e-proceedings-o n-a-TV-monitor- 5-km-away.-The- latest-round-of -environmental- protection-cuts ,-bill-C-45,-ha s-been-the-trig ger-for-the-fir st-nations-prot est-Idle-No-Mor e,-as-it-makes- it-easier-to-pu t-a-pipeline-th rough-a-reserva tion,violating- signed-treaties .
0 # cwbystache 2013-01-05 09:16
How'd those hyphens end up appearing between every word? An app that does it? Don't have a problem with it, mind--it's not unlike the dashes used by Emily Dickinson, or the non-use of punctuation by Cormac McCarthy, which hasn't taken away any importance from their content, either.
+1 # fredboy 2013-01-05 09:23
Many share one great idea--it would be remarkably effective and powerful if you, Robert Redford, would occasionally visit distressed regions like Southwest Florida and speak out about the evolving and man-made eco disasters developing there. That is the power of celebrity -- immediate public focus and in your case, credibility.
Thanks for considering this. The world needs you.
+1 # X Dane 2013-01-05 16:29
You are right in appealing to Redford. We are fortunate that a number of our famous entertainers have a social conscience and act on it.

Ben Aflack, George Cluny, Mat Damon, who has a movie out about "fracking" I am going to see, and Brad Pit and Angelina Jolie, are helping out in the rebuilding of New Orleans, and other projects. And they all put their MONEY where their mouths are, There are many more than the ones I mentioned here, and it is good to see them get involved.
+1 # Third_stone 2013-01-06 11:31
I am not clear on some points regarding this product. First, we have a sludge we are piping, probably helped along with water which will be destroyed, we pipe this crap to Texas for refining and shipping to Europe, where does the sludge go when the fuel has been refined out of it? This has to produce massive amounts of filthy sludge. We pile it in Texas? We throw it into the gulf? What?
Why does nobody propose refining this where they dug it, so the sludge can go back in the hole?
+1 # X Dane 2013-01-06 14:48
Third Stone.
Indeed, Why not??....There are a lot more questions than answers...BUT as I stated earlier here:

This filthy bad stuff has to stay underground. It is much too polluting to bring up and is way more destructive than it is useful. The more you read up on it, the more you understand HOW bad it is. Please read what DR. James Hansen writes about the tar sands oil, and also Bill MC Kibben.

As a matter of fact, HE says that WE must take charge, for he is not sure the president will do enough. Obama is also under a lot of pressure from republicans to allow the tar sands to be refined here.

So I agree, we citizens must MAKE him. That was FDR's answer to some people, who wanted a project addressed: "MAKE ME." A president need to have the people with him....Sometime s prodding him a lot.
+1 # hoodwinkednomore 2013-01-07 09:30
Redford is too humble and smart to run for some huge public office. Thank you RSN for carrying this piece!

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