Top Winter Athletes 'Urge' Climate Action from Obama: 'Reject' Keystone Pipeline

Alarmed by “human-caused” warming, 75 Winter Olympic and X-Game athletes sent President Barack Obama a letter last week “asking” for executive action. Specifically, they requested the president to: 1) “Issue standards under the Clean Air Act that cut carbon pollution from America’s aging power plant – at least 25 percent by 2020,” and 2) “Reject the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline.” 

According to their letter, these measures are necessary, in part, to protect and save the U.S. winter sports tourism industry. 


The letter, written on behalf of “23 million winter sports enthusiasts” from around the globe, notes “inconsistent snow and questionable extremes” that have and will continue to put the estimated $12.2 billion revenue generated annually from the U.S. winter sports tourism industry at “risk.” The athletes, who are “witnessing climate change first-hand” state that, "Without a doubt. Winter is in trouble.” 


Obama is reminded in the letter of his 2013 State of the Union promise that “...if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.” Consequently, the president is “urged” to take “the first big steps” because “it’s time to force our transition to clean energy.” 

As the letter details: 

“The good news is that because we know this warming is human-caused, we can do something about it and it can be done, now, from limiting carbon pollution from our nation’s dirty power plants to rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. 

First, it is time to tackle pollution from the biggest emitters in the United States: power plants. We’re asking for you to issue standards under the Clean Air Act that cut carbon pollution from America’s aging power plant fleet – at least 25 percent by 2020, while boosting energy efficiency and shifting to clean energy sources. Power plants are our largest source of carbon pollution.  Cleaning them up will create tens of thousands of clean energy jobs, meet the pollution targets set for the country, and restore U.S. international leadership. 

Furthermore, we urge you to reject dirty fuels like tar sands. Specifically, reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which is not in our national interest because it would unlock vast amounts of additional carbon that we can’t afford to burn, extend our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels, endanger health and safety, and put critical water resources at risk.” 

In support of their position, the signees refer to a report published last December titled, “Climate Impacts on the Winter Tourism in the United States.” That 2012 report, however, relies heavily on “familiar” climate models and temperature predictions, which as recently noted, may not be accurate.  Additionally, the study was co-funded by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a “pro-environment” nonprofit nicknamed “The Earth’s Best Defense.” The NRDC’s Board of Trustees includes environmental A-listers such as Robert Redford, James Taylor, Leonardo DiCaprio, and former “Green Job Czar” Van Jones.  

Ultimately, this letter will be of zero consequence. What's more, it reveals clearly the economic, scientific, and political naiveté of its signees. Given that coal still provides 43% of electric power generated in the U.S. and coal mining directly and indirectly employs 555,270 people with a combined payroll $36.3 billion, is it reasonable to expect or to believe the U.S. government should be giving ski resorts priority over power plants? 

Our winter sports tourism industry’s economic contributions are important and so too is our commitment to a cleaner and healthier environment. However, in light of both current and future energy demands and the veracity of scientific predictions regarding climate change, these athletes who advocate “rejecting” the Keystone XL pipeline and hyper-regulating power plants because such measures “will” save winter sports tourism make neither a convincing nor a compelling argument. 


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