In front of the White House today, NASA climatologist James Hansen got arrested along with 139 other people. They were calling upon President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada’s oil sands down to the refineries of the US Gulf Coast. In particular, he highlighted the fact that burning all that oil would contribute substantially to climate change, which will already occur to a dangerous extent because of human greenhouse gas emissions.
As has been the case for every day since September 21st, those arrested in front of the White House were taken to the Anacostia jail, which is the headquarters of the Park Police. Within a few hours of being arrested, all the protesters were released.
It is a bit dispiriting that a scientist of Hansen’s calibre feels the need to get arrested in protest. You would hope the American political system would be able to incorporate scientific knowledge in a more ordinary way, and that concerns like abrupt or runaway climate change would be incorporated into undertakings like the U.S. State Department’s environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Unfortunately, the American political system continues to ignore the seriousness of climate change and the policies that are necessary to reduce the risk of it becoming a catastrophe. Hopefully, this action will help to alert Barack Obama to what needs to be done, and he will take an important first step by blocking this pipeline.