Here's What Obama Can Expect If He Fails Us On Keystone XL

Editor's note: This story is part of PolicyMic's Millennials Take On Climate Change series this week.

By the end of 2013, the fight over the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will be moving toward conclusion. After two and a half years of ferocious organizing by environmental organizations, grassroots activists and indigenous communities, the Obama administration is rapidly approaching a decision on whether or not to grant a presidential approval for the pipeline’s construction. If built, the Keystone XL pipeline would carry some 800,000 barrels of unrefined tar sands bitumen from Alberta, Canada through the heartland to refineries along the Gulf Coast, every day.

The ultimate decision to approve or reject the pipeline falls to President Obama alone, and will constitute a test of his climate legacy. Will he work to reign in dangerous climate changing emissions that threaten Earth’s ecological systems?

Indeed, President Obama himself embraced the framework that positions his Keystone XL decision as a climate test. In his June 25 climate address, Obama said, “Our national interest will be served only if this project doesn’t significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project can go forward.”

Spoiler alert: The construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would absolutely, unequivocally increase climate-changing emissions. A recent study commissioned by major environmental organizations estimates that the pipeline would contribute an additional 6.34 billion metric tons of CO2e pollution by 2050, and esteemed climate scientists have railed against the project for years, calling it the “fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet.”

Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s State Department produced a roundly maligned Environmental Impact Statement that downplays the threat Keystone XL poses to the climate. Now, while the State Department digests the more than one million public comments submitted regarding the pipeline, people are organizing a national network of resistance.

Thousands of grassroots climate activists, many of whom volunteered and donated to get Obama elected, have signed on to the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance. Tired of waiting for leadership, they are preparing for action to ensure that the pipeline rejected. As you read this, over 70,000 people, spanning all 50 states, are preparing to engage in peaceful acts of civil disobedience in their hometowns.

The growing Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance is marshaling Americans who oppose the pipeline into a coordinated network of locally-rooted action teams. The project, organized by CREDO Action, Rainforest Action Network, and the Other 98%, consists of regionally focused, trainings across the country to prepare people for peaceful civil disobedience, should President Obama fail to block the Keystone XL pipeline. Teams of experienced trainers are on the road all over the country this summer, coaching hundreds of volunteer ‘action leaders,’ who will in turn prepare their neighbors and families to participate in sit-in protests at key target locations. The waves of protests will be triggered if President Obama’s administration issues a draft National Interest Determination that ignores or downplay climate impacts and recommends approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Throughout August and September, hundreds of free local trainings will be held in towns from coast to coast, from the metropolises of New York City and Los Angeles to the hamlets of Virginia and Missouri, and the desert towns of Arizona and Nevada. Those participating in the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance hold out hope that President Obama could reject the pipeline, but will be prepared to take bold, dignified action if the administration fails to lead.

The widespread popular organizing against the pipeline provides a vision of what Obama can expect if he fails this climate test: a formidable wave of opposition and nonviolent resistance from his ostensible base, many of whom worked to get him elected.

The message from the grassroots is clear: The time for idle hope for climate leadership is over. No matter where you are in the country, chances are good that your neighbors are planning a Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance action in your locality. It’s time for you to answer the call of history and join their efforts to defeat the Keystone XL tars sands pipeline. To get looped in on free public trainings and planning sessions in your home community, sign the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance.

In this, the eleventh hour to prevent widespread climate chaos, the best defense against the pipeline is your leadership, and the whole world is counting on you to make the difference. Take the Pledge now, and be a part of the action.

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