Keystone XL Pipeline: The fuse to a carbon bomb

Trans Canada Keystone Oil Pipeline
Photo by Shannon Ramos

What’s so important about the Keystone XL Pipeline? Why is it being called the fuse to a carbon bomb?

The key to Keystone XL is that it could transport almost exactly the amount of carbon needed to put us beyond the point of no return–when man-made climate change becomes irreversible.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is the conduit for the tar sands oil produced in the northwest regions of Canada. Fully harvested, the tar sands–besides having 12% higher carbon dioxide emissions than other sources of petroleum–would produce about one trillion metric tons of emissions.

Putting one trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere would produce a 2-degree Celsius increase in average global temperatures.

This just so happens to be the tipping point:

Two degrees [Celsius] is the maximum acceptable figure adopted by the European Union as a manageable level of warming, based on IPCC findings, beyond which it becomes unlikely that serious negative effects can be avoided.

The decision to develop tar sands and construct the Keystone XL Pipeline is a conscious decision to put ourselves beyond the tipping point. The oil from Canadian tar sands is a carbon bomb, and the Keystone XL Pipeline is the fuse. If the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline goes forward, we’ve knowingly lit the fuse.