In his State of the Union address, President Obama discussed climate quite briefly. That’s because there was only one statement that needed to be made: Climate change is real and ongoing. Our nation has made a monumental deal with China to cut carbon emissions; it is essential that we continue making progress from here.

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa made it clear in her response to the address, however, that climate change is not a top priority for everyone. Ernst expressed her support for the Keystone XL pipeline, claiming the project would generate thousands of jobs and would be of “minimal environmental impact.”

But the Department of State’s Environmental Impact Statement admitted that the oil sands crude that the pipeline would transport emits 17 percent more carbon than refined crude. The Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that the carbon emissions from the Keystone pipeline system alone would add up to 18.7 million metric tons annually.

Like Ernst, some argue that this volume is too small of a percentage of carbon emissions to be deemed impactful. But if we continue to write greenhouse gases off as insignificant in amount, won’t it all eventually add up? Isn’t that how our country’s emissions reached billions of metric tons in the first place?

Ernst mentioned thousands of job opportunities. But over the course of two years of pipeline construction, only 3,900 direct construction jobs would be generated. The remaining job openings are indirect or induced.

All of these jobs are temporary, lasting only for the construction period; an astonishing 35 positions would be permanent.

I may only be a young student, and I still have a lot to learn – but like our president, I care. I encourage the people of Maine to call their senators about Keystone XL and make their voices heard, too.

Maddie Holton

Portland