The New York Times has come out with an editorial position on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and it’s unusually definitive, considering that we still have news media trying to represent “both sides” of the climate change “debate.” Here’s how they break it down.

Canada and the U.S. want to build a pipeline thousands of miles long from Canada to Texas, to carry bitumen from the tar sands to refineries where it can be turned into fuel. On the one hand, this seems like a good idea: As long as we're stuck with oil, why not buy it from people we can probably annex in an emergency, rather than people who are at least in theory plotting our downfall?

The problem is, a pipeline that long is probably going to leak, and that will be a big nasty mess.

Just as important, facilitating the transport and refining of oil from Canada's tar sands will only further perpetuate our addiction to oil. This is bad for the climate, and therefore all future generations of life on earth. Oil from tar sands leads to significantly more greenhouse-gas emissions than conventional crude.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Those emissions are likely to cause Canada to increase, rather than reduce, its net carbon emissions. Perhaps, as a northerly country, Canada's government believes it is uniquely well-suited to adapt to climate change. That would be true, except for the part where climate-abetted resource scarcity and mass migrations cause world wars and economic crashes the likes of which we can scarcely imagine.

I'm sure future generations won't mind, though, because they'll be so “wealthy” as a result of all the “sound investments” their ancestors made with their oil largesse.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.