Dear President Obama, We write to you with renewed hope and urgency about America’s response to climate disruption

. Your speech at Georgetown University in June was historic: the first time an American President has tackled the challenge squarely, with a strong executive plan and a passionate call for engagement. Meanwhile, the facts on the ground – documented in the IPCC’s new report and illustrated from the Rockaways to the Philippines – confirm that we must do more. Your Climate Action Plan represents real progress in reducing carbon pollution, preparing for inevitable impacts, and exerting American leadership in international climate initiatives. Your commitment to place responsible limits on carbon pollution from large existing sources is particularly crucial. We know how difficult it will be to implement those limits, and we are with you in that fight – to win! We especially appreciate your commitment to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline if it significantly increases climate pollution. In making climate impact a threshold condition for evaluating Keystone XL, you established a vital principle: we can’t keep pouring new capital investment into making the climate crisis worse. The International Energy Agency announced this year that most proven fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned if we are to have a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate disruption. Huge new commitments to long-lived fossil fuel infrastructure make it virtually impossible to keep that “unburnable carbon” in the ground. Such a step backwards would be particularly tragic now, because the prospects for real solutions have never been brighter. In the private sector and in our communities, the pace of clean energy innovation is accelerating. From crowd-financing for solar energy and efficiency, to electric-vehicle technology, to the proliferation of new transportation choices in our cities, solutions are rapidly becoming more available, more effective, and cheaper. Your bold stimulus program in 2009 and 2010 helped spark many of today’s successful clean-energy initiatives, and a new generation of young innovators and leaders are driving these solutions forward. As we adopt more and better clean energy innovations and climate reality begins to set in, fossil fuel markets are beginning to contract. Our biggest fear is not that we can’t develop enough solutions; it is that huge, new, long-term commitments to fossil fuel infrastructure will needlessly prolong fossil fuel addiction past the point of no return for a livable climate. We find the argument that Keystone XL will not increase emissions disturbingly fatalistic. It rests on the assumption that the tar sands will be fully exploited with or without this pipeline. But other routes to market, including shipping crude by rail, are considered by oil industry analysts to be much less economically viable (which is, of course, why the Keystone route was chosen.) Furthermore, the tar sands are one of the major global carbon reserves that must remain substantially unburned if we are to avert chaotic climate disruption. Assuming that they will be fully developed is simply capitulating. The tenor and content of your climate speech suggested strongly that you mean to do the opposite.

The “no impact” argument also ignores the crucially important effect of large capital investments on energy markets. Keystone XL will facilitate further exploitation of tar sands by “sinking” capital, tipping the balance of incentives toward more production. These capital investments “lock in” emission increases for decades, creating overwhelming economic pressure to keep digging and burning, and squandering the capital we need for solutions. They make the problem not just worse but intractable. No single pipeline represents a large proportion of the vast sum of global emissions. But Keystone XL is substantively important. It is a big, conspicuous example of what we must categorically avoid: long-term commitments that drive us deeper into fossil fuel dependence and keep us stuck there. Whether it is the ideal test of your Administration’s resolve on climate is beside the point. It is, as history would have it, the real-world test, the one that will for better or worse be remembered as the watershed. The decision is about more than the pipeline; it’s about the principle you laid out, the principle that we must stop making the climate crisis worse. Keystone XL has become a line in the sand for the climate movement for one other simple, crucial reason: The decision is yours. Only one human being is the world’s most powerful leader at this moment – the first moment when we have truly come face-to-face with the dimensions of the climate crisis, and very likely the last moment when we can commit ourselves to solutions before climate disruption spins out of control. Your decision on Keystone XL will be the most visible, direct thing you do with your power in this fateful time. It will be the most potent signal you send – to the world, to Americans, to our kids – about our collective determination to do what is right and necessary to respond to this crisis. We remain hopeful, because the person with this power is you.

Wendy Abrams Chicago, IL Getta and Kamesh Aiyer Cambridge, MA Betsy Aubrey San Francisco, CA Holly Badgley Mill Valley, CA Allan Badiner San Francisco, CA

Nicey and Steve Berkenfeld Melville, NY Elwyn Berlekamp Piedmont, CA Wendell Berry Point Royal, KY Loren Blackford New York, NY David Blittersdorf Burlington, VT

Jabe Blumenthal Seattle, WA Suzanne Booker-Canfield Winnetka, IL Louise and Robert Bowditch Brookline, MA Peter Boyer and Terry Gamble Boyer San Francisco, CA Beth Broderick Austin, TX Mimi and Peter Buckley Mill Valley, CA Mark Buell and Susie Tompkins Buell San Francisco, CA Leslie Walker Burlock San Francisco, CA Kathleen Barry and Bob Burnett Berkeley, CA Cassie and Jim Carroll Seattle, WA Patience Chamberlin Exeter, NH Nina Chen New York, NY Aimee Christensen Washington, DC Marilyn Clements Stamford, CT Noel Congdon Denver, CO

Terry Crowley Woodinville, WA Blythe Danner New York, NY David desJardins Burlingame, CA Meredith Dewitt Chicago, IL Shirley Dinkins Pleasanton, CA Chris Dolan San Rafael, CA Marion Edey Silver Spring, MD Andrew Faulk San Francisco, CA Calvin and Frances Fayard New Orleans, LA Christopher Findlater Miami, FL Elizabeth Fisher San Francisco, CA James Fournier Nicasio, CA Reba and Robert Fournier Portola Valley, CA Charles Frank Highland Park, IL David Friedman and Rabbi Tirzah Firestone-Friedman Boulder, CO

Shelby Gans San Francisco, CA Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson Toronto, Ontario KC Golden Seattle, WA Adelaide Gomer Ithaca, NY Neva Goodwin Medford, MA Tony Crabb and Barbara Grasseschi Healdsburg, CA Richard Graves Washington, DC Julie Gribble New York, NY Ken Grossinger Washington, DC Eileen and Paul Growald Shelburne, VT Andrew Gunther and Teresa Burns Gunther Oakland, CA Martin Gutierrez and Margaret-Takei Gutierrez San Francisco, CA Tom Haines New York, NY Lawrie Ryerson Harris Berwyn, PA

Paul Hawken Mill Valley, CA Karen Heath Wilton, ME Marshall Herskovitz Santa Monica, CA Anne Hess New York, NY Aaron and Barbarina Heyerdahl Shelburne, VT Daniel Hildreth Falmouth, ME Gary Hirshberg Concord, NH Lawrence Hui New York, NY Marion Hunt New York, NY Wes Jackson Salina, KS Frank Jernigan San Francisco, CA

Joan Jett Long Beach, CA

Guyton Jinkerson Los Altos Hills, CA Laurene Powell Jobs Palo Alto, CA

Brielle Johnck Menlo Park, CA Susan Castner and Mark Kaltenbach Lake Mary, FL Joel Kanter Vienna, VA Judi Kanter Miraga, CA Larry Keeshan Berkeley, CA Arthur Keller Palo Alto, CA Danny Kennedy Oakland, CA Robert Kennedy Jr. New York, NY Vinod Khosla Palo Alto, CA Michael Kieschnick Palo Alto, CA Steve Kirsch Los Altos Hills, CA Peter Goldman and Martha Kongsgaard Seattle, WA

Kenny and Meryl Laguna Delray Beach, FL Lyn and Norman Lear Los Angeles, CA Stephen Lewis Toronto, Ontario E. Steve Lichtenberg San Francisco, CA Crea and Phil Linthilac Shelburne, VT Ruth Lipscomb Bellevue, WA Cynthia Daniel and Douglas Lipton Healdsburg, CA Henri Lipton Healdsburg, CA Oliver Lipton Healdsburg, CA Alexandra Loeb Seattle, WA Stephanie Low New York, NY Mitch Mandich and Rebecca Vitale Mandich Palo Alto, CA Yann Martel Toronto, Ontario Mike Mathieu Seattle, WA David McClain Piedmont, CA

Sarah Kovner New York, NY Orin Kramer New York, NY Betsy Krieger Baltimore, MD

Anna Hawken McKay and Rob McKay San Francisco, CA Marni McKinney Indianapolis, IN Christina and Murray Mednick Pacific Palisades, CA Wilhelm Merck Hamilton, MA Alida Messinger Minneapolis, MN Eric Michelman Seattle, WA Dan Miller Berkeley, CA Roger Milliken Cumberland, ME Belinda Muñoz San Francisco, CA Nancy Fleck Myers Evanston, IL Terry and Tom Newmark St. Louis, MO John O’Farrell Atherton, CA Anne Bartley and Larry O’Neill San Francisco, CA Diana Dillaway and David Olsen Ventura, CA Richard Ottinger White Plains, NY

Yolanda Parker Los Angeles, CA Dennis Pence Sandpoint, ID Carol and David Pensky Washington, DC Jamel Perkins San Francisco, CA Robert Perkowitz Washington, DC Barbara Carlson and Lisa Peters San Francisco, CA Mary Pipher Lincoln, NE Zach Polett Little Rock, AK Catherine Raphael Pittsburgh, PA Dee and Mel Raff Takoma Park, MD Harry Plant and Amy Rao Palo Alto, CA Randy Repass Watsonville, CA Mike Richter Greenwich, CT Charles Rodgers Boston, MA Clayton Ruby Toronto, Ontario

Carla Meyer and Vin Ryan Vero Beach, FL Guy and Jeanine Saperstein Piedmont, CA Tom Sargent San Anselmo, CA Terron Schaefer New York, NY Baifang and Orville Schell Berkeley, CA Margaret Schink Portola Valley, CA Steve Schmidt Menlo Park, CA Wendy Schmidt Atherton, CA Heike Schmitz Palo Alto, CA Claire Silberman New York, NY Rebecca Sive Chicago, IL Daniel Solomon Bethesda, MD John Sorensen Truckee, CA Tina Spring San Francisco, CA Margo King and John Steiner Longmont, CO

Nancy Stephens Los Angeles, CA Peter Stern Mill Valley, CA Faye and Sandor Straus Lafayette, CA James Sturdevant San Rafael, CA Johanna Surla Seattle, WA William Susman Chicago, IL David Suzuki Vancouver, British Columbia Rachel and Ritchie Tabachnick Carnegie, PA Margery Tabankin Marina Del Ray, CA Brian Arbogast and Valerie Tarico Seattle, WA Betsy Taylor Takoma Park, MD Ann B. and Glenn Thomas Louisville, KY Marisa Tomei New York, NY Lynde Uihlein Milwaukee, WI Jon Ungar Scarsdale, NY

Francesca Vietor San Francisco, CA Christy and Scott Wallace Bethesda, MD Kathy Washienko Seattle, WA Patricia Weber Corvalis, OR Marcia Weese Voorhees, NJ

Daniel Weise Seattle, WA Nancy Meyer and Marc Weiss New York, NY Patricia West Philadelphia, PA Marsha Garces Williams San Francisco, CA Laura Yedwab Seattle, WA

To respond to this letter, please contact Betsy Taylor, Breakthrough Strategies and Solutions, at (301)-920-1444 or

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful