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At today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Keystone XL, Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) asked well-known climate scientist James Hansen to clarify what he meant when he made his famous “game over” comment, which has been used widely by Keystone XL opponents to justify their erroneous claims. Of course, “game over” has been the main rallying cry for the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune who sat next to Hansen at today’s hearing. In response to Senator Menendez’s question, Hansen explained,
“I’m glad you asked me that question because my comment continues to be misinterpreted […] It has been clear that conventional oil and gas are limited. We’re probably close to peak-oil for conventional oil. The science was clear that we cannot burn all the coal, we’re going to have to phase that out and that’s a solvable problem because coal is used mainly for electricity production and we can generate electricity in other ways including nuclear power, which is carbon-free. Then there is this other huge source of carbon, unconventional fossil fuels and my statement was that if we are going to now open up that other source of unconventional fossil fuels, that’s what tar sands are: the first big step into that unconventional fossil fuels. But the science tells us we can’t do that. We’re screwing our children and our grandchildren and all the young people in future generations if we think we can use those unconventional fossil fuels. The science is crystal clear on that and the world is just ignoring the science. The scientists are saying ‘wait you can’t do that,’ and that’s what I was saying. This is game over if you don’t understand; we have to leave that extremely large amount of carbon in the ground.”
So not even James Hansen, the very person Keystone XL opponents quote incessantly, believes that Keystone XL itself will significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions.
But that’s not all. Senator Menendez followed up on Hansen’s clarification, offering yet another blow to Keystone XL opponents. As he explained,
“So I now have the greater definition. I just personally don’t think that the approval or disapproval of the pipeline is a decline in global leadership, nor do I believe that the specific approval or disapproval is necessarily game over. I understand what you’re saying, there is a broader context which is whether you have access to this fuel and you start down that road. I just wanted to refine this as it relates to the question before the committee, which is the question of approval of the pipeline.”
Of note, this question came after the State Department, numerous energy and climate experts, and Obama administration officials disputed activists’ claims. Looks like it’s officially “game over” for opponents’ “game over” claims.