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400 Climate Scientists Endorse Call to Halt Fossil Fuels Ahead of Major NYC Climate March

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Ahead of a March to End Fossil Fuels in New York City on Sunday, some 400 scientists endorsed the demands of the march in an open letter to President Biden, blasting him for claiming he would “listen to the science,” while his policies “fail to align with what the science tells us must happen to avert calamity.” We speak with Rose Abramoff, an Earth scientist and one of the signatories, who was arrested last week blocking construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “We feel like the science has come to such a complete consensus, and we just want fossil fuels to stop,” says Abramoff. “I wouldn’t feel the need to risk my job with activism, to risk felony-level charges by locking myself to a pipeline drill, if I felt like the voice of the scientific community was being properly heard.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Ahead of a major march Sunday in New York City to escalate the fight to end fossil fuels, hundreds of climate activists blocked the entrances to Citibank’s headquarters in Manhattan Thursday as part of a push to end financing for the fossil fuel industry. At least 25 people were arrested, including Alec Connon, co-director of Stop the Money Pipeline. He spoke to Democracy Now! after his release.

ALEC CONNON: Citibank is the world’s second-largest funder of fossil fuels. Since the Paris Agreement was signed seven years ago, which was supposed to be a pivotal turning point in the climate story, Citibank has loaned more than $332 billion to the coal, oil and gas companies that are fueling the climate crisis and fighting climate action at every turn. And we’ve been engaging with Citi for years, talking to their senior leadership and encouraging them to listen to us and to start passing policies to stop financing fossil fuel expansion, but they have not listened. And so, today we descended on their headquarters, and we blocked 12 entrances to their headquarters and prevented many, many hundreds of their workers from being able to enter the building for an hour or two hours.

AMY GOODMAN: Also this week, some 400 scientists endorsed the demands of Sunday’s March to End Fossil Fuels, part of the Global Fight to End Fossil Fuels, which will see actions take place around the world. In an open letter to President Biden, they noted he had vowed to listen to the science in tackling the climate crisis, but, quote, “it’s clear that the crisis is spiraling out of control, and the policies of your administration,” they said, “with regard to fossil fuels fail to align with what the science tells us must happen to avert calamity,” unquote.

For more, we’re joined by one of the signatories to this letter, Rose Abramoff. She’s an Earth scientist who was just arrested for chaining herself to a drill in order to shut down construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia, which will carry two billion cubic feet of fracked gas across Appalachia. This comes after she was fired in January from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory after urging other scientists to take action on climate change.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Dr. Rose Abramoff. It’s great to have you with us. If you can talk about — 400 scientists have endorsed this march on Sunday, and this is kicking off a week of climate action — what your demands are and the significance of you all being scientists? Many other groups have also endorsed this march.

ROSE ABRAMOFF: Thank you for having me on, Amy.

Yeah, so, this letter, that some 400 scientists have signed, is actually very simple. It’s one of our shorter letters. It simply asks the Biden administration to meet the demands of the March to End Fossil Fuels, which are, essentially, to stop federal approval for new fossil fuel projects and repeal permits for major projects like the Willow project and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which I’m sure we’ll talk about in a minute; to phase out fossil drilling on our public lands and waters; to declare a climate emergency; and to design an energy transition that protects workers’ rights, which might relate to your earlier segment. And the reason why — you know, we could get into the science of it. We don’t actually spend a lot of time in this letter talking about how the continued use of fossil fuels puts us at greater risk of devastating heat and flooding, crop failure, climate migration. You know, the message is very simple. We feel like the science has come to such a complete consensus, and we just want fossil fuels to stop.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you were arrested, Rose Abramoff, just a week ago, when you joined, what, four other activists to block construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia. This is one of the favorite projects of Joe Manchin, the most — receives most oil and gas funding of any senator in the U.S. Congress. Can you talk about your action?

ROSE ABRAMOFF: Sure, yeah. I was locked to the drill poised to go under the Greenbrier River, which is the longest undammed river in the eastern United States. A lot of this pipeline overlies this karst geology, which is a very kind of vulnerable and difficult substrate to drill through and poses a lot of vulnerability for the local environment. And then, of course, we have the basic climate impact of the 90 or so million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, which we can’t afford if we want to meet our climate goals or come anywhere close to meeting our climate goals.

And so I was locked on. There were actually five elder women who were part of the Rocking Chair Rebellion who were locked on or blocking with me. And, you know, we all felt that this pipeline is emblematic of the larger struggle to transition away from fossil fuels, that we’re failing in that struggle right now. And, you know, Senator Manchin, as you said, the champion of the MVP, has received more money from methane gas pipelines than any other lawmaker.

And so, you know, there’s really — it’s really egregious that this is still happening. From a scientific perspective, it’s a no-brainer that we shouldn’t be expanding fossil fuels, full stop. Added to the carbon risk is really the cost to ratepayers and taxpayers, because this needs to become a stranded asset if we’re ever going to meet our climate goals. So, you know, this pipeline which is being built now really can’t and shouldn’t be put into service.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin recently went to the construction site to speak about how the project is on track, will provide jobs. The company says it wants to finish construction to restore the environment. Your response to these kinds of statements?

ROSE ABRAMOFF: Right. Well, I don’t think that it’s at all accurate to say that building this pipeline will restore the environment. I think it will do exactly the opposite. And what’s left of this pipeline now is still hundreds of water crossings, which are in the sort of riskiest types of construction for the local environment. And then, of course, there’s the emissions burden of this pipeline, which I think is fairly obviously a negative impact on the environment.

You know, locals don’t want this pipeline. The resistance to this pipeline is primarily local. And it’s also been primarily very effective. I sort of find it heartening that this pipeline is six years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, in part because of these small locally organized actions, such as the one that we participated in.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about one of our news headlines today. We talked about the internal documents from Exxon revealing that executives, including Trump’s former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was the former CEO of Exxon, secretly worked to sow doubt about the severity of climate change even as Exxon publicly acknowledged the link between fossil fuels and the climate crisis. He would go on to become secretary of state. The Wall Street Journal reports between 2006 and ’16, Exxon executives in their internal communications attempted to push back against the notion that humans needed to curtail oil and gas use to help the planet. If you can respond to this?

ROSE ABRAMOFF: Sure. First of all, I find it pretty astounding that this article came out in The Wall Street Journal. I’m actually quite heartened that the notoriously business-focused readership of The Wall Street Journal is interested in Exxon’s basically decades-long conspiracy to cover up the climate crisis. It makes me feel like we’re making some progress in moving towards this shared sense of reality, at least of what Exxon’s intentions are.

And, yeah, secondly, I don’t at all find it shocking that Exxon is continuing to downplay climate change as late as this last decade. In fact, I would argue that if you did another exposé in 10 or so years of communications that are happening right now at these companies, you would find a continued utter lack of intention to transition their energy holdings. And so, you know, this, to me, is just like one more line of evidence. There was a study earlier this year in the journal Science that showed that Exxon’s internal climate models in the '70s were as accurate as anyone else's in the scientific community at that time, and yet they continued to fund misinformation think tanks and, as this article says, never publicly acknowledged climate change until the mid-2000s. So, I feel like the lesson that we should take from all this is that fossil fuel companies, like Exxon, have no intention of transitioning their energy holdings on their own, that we have to force them to do it.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, you’re going to be joining this march on Sunday, but, Rose Abramoff, was it worth all that you’ve done, being fired in January from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory after urging other scientists to speak out around climate change and to take action on it? Are you sorry for what you did?

ROSE ABRAMOFF: I’m not. I feel like I tried everything that I could do in order to get this message across and to, you know, like, get the message out to people that climate activists aren’t crazy hippies and scientists aren’t exaggerating that this is a serious issue that we need to address now. I feel like I did everything that I could within the context of behaving well as a scientist — you know, educational programs, policy reports, city council, petitions and marches. I wouldn’t feel the need to risk my job with activism, to risk felony-level charges by locking myself to a pipeline drill, if I felt like the voice of the scientific community was being properly heard. So, I stand by my actions.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Rose Abramoff, I want to thank you so much for being with us, Earth scientist.

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