As busloands of Chicagoans head to Washington D.C. for what’s billed as the largest climate change rally in history, local activists are planning a conference Saturday and rally Sunday calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.
A Climate Crisis Summit  – a day-long conference starting at 9 a.m., Saturday, February 16, at IIT Kent College of Law, 565 W. Adams – will feature discussion of a range of grassroots action, including campaigns at local universities  calling for divestment from oil companies and efforts to win a moratorium on fracking in Illinois.
In morning sessions, Professor Mark Potosnak of DePaul University will review climate science and discuss worst-case scenarios; Carl Wassilie, a Yup’ik Alaskan, will discuss the struggle to save native villages in Alaska now threatened by climate-related flooding.
On Sunday, February 17, an 11 a.m. rally at Michigan and Congress will show solidarity with thousands of protestors in Washington D.C., who will be surrounding the White House to demand that President Obama reject the Keystone pipeline, a $7 billion project which would carry 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil daily from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries.
Tar sands oil are even more carbon-intensive than conventional oil, and scientists say the Keystone pipeline would boost annual carbon pollution in the U.S. by 27 million metric tons. In addition its extraction is energy intensive, uses vast amounts of water, and would destroy huge stretches of Canada’s boreal forests, which capture more carbon than rainforests.
Sunday’s rally is sponsored by the Chicago Youth Climate Coalition , which represents college students from around the city.
On Wednesday, 50 scientists, environmentalists, and supporters were arrested at the White House demanding Obama block the pipeline. They included Sierra Club  executive director Michael Brune and the group’s president, Allison Chin – the first time in the group’s 120-year history it has engaged in civil disobedience. Others arrested included Bill McKibbon of 350.org , Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his son Conor, and civil rights leader Julian Bond.
Allowing the pipeline to proceed “would guarantee that we’re locked in to the most carbon-intensive fuel source on the planet for the next half century” and “would undo all the real progress on carbon pollution that the president rightly took credit for” in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Brune said.
“Although President Obama has declared his own determination to act, much that is within his power to accomplish remains undone, and the decision to allow the construction of a pipeline to carry millions of barrels of the most-polluting oil on Earth from Canada’s tar sands to the Gulf Coast of the U.S. is in his hands,” said Bond.