Even Under Trump, Studies Still Confirm That to Save Our Climate, we Need to Rein in Fossil Fuel Production

December 10, 2018

Despite Trump’s attempts to stifle science and deceive the American public on global warming, the Administration’s own reports still show that to save our climate, we have to keep our fossil fuels in the ground.

The latest studies included the updated Fourth National Climate Assessment, which detailed the mounting costs of climate change here in America and urged quick action to confront the problem.

And while the report highlighted some climate progress, including, “transformations in the energy sector—including the displacement of coal by natural gas and increased deployment of renewable energy,” it emphasized that to truly stave off the most severe consequences of climate, that “immediate and substantial global greenhouse gas emissions reductions” were needed.

The other study was a U.S. Geological Survey inventory of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of publicly owned fossil fuels in the United States.

That report, which is the first ever prepared by the U.S. government, highlighted and confirmed the massive amount of carbon pollution stemming from the production of publicly owned and federally managed coal and oil and gas, all of which is overseen by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

All told, more than 1.3 billion metric tons of carbon can be traced back to strip mining in the American West, fracking in the Rocky Mountains, and offshore drilling the Gulf and elsewhere.

To put that into perspective, 1.3 billion metric tons represents 25%–a full quarter–of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. To put that further into perspective, 1.3 billion metric tons equals the amount of carbon released by 322 coal-fired power plants.

Taken together, the National Climate Assessment and U.S. Geological Survey’s report squarely confirmed two things: 1) That we need to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions ASAP and 2) That confronting the production of publicly owned fossil fuels is key to achieving these reductions.

This isn’t so much of a surprise as it is welcome vindication. For years now, we’ve known the production of federal coal and oil and gas has an immense climate footprint. Previous reports by our environmental partners have confirmed the massive amount of carbon tied to publicly owned fossil fuels and that climate emissions from coal and oil and gas production are enormous.

It’s what’s led us to make our “Keep it in the Ground” campaign the highest priority for our Climate and Energy Program.

It’s also what’s spurred us to confront federal coal mining approvals in the Powder River Basin of northeast Wyoming and southeast Montanachallenge fracking on public lands across the Rocky Mountain West, and overall resist fossil fuel production on western public lands wherever we can.

And it’s why we’ve long taken the position that for our climate, we need to put an end to selling off our public lands for fossil fuel development.

However, with these latest reports, we have fully credible confirmation that keeping our publicly owned fossil fuels in the ground is a must for the climate.

Coupled with the fact that more and more studies are confirming that “supply-side” climate action (i.e., “keep it in the ground” action) promises enormous benefits and progress for the planet, the imperative to stop producing fossil fuels is undeniable.

Most recently, the Stockholm Environment Institute published a peer-reviewed article confirming the importance of targeting coal and oil and gas production, finding that such an approach would “increase the prospects of achieving our globally agreed climate goals.”

It is increasingly clear that supply-side policies can bring important benefits…allowing greater emission reductions at the same (or lower) cost than demand-side policies alone.

– Michael Lazarus, Harro van Asselt, Stockholm Environment Institute

Sadly, while science and the moral imperative is on our side, the challenge remains enormous. In the wake of the Trump Administration’s release of its own climate reports, Administration officials proceeded to attempt to tear them apart with lies and denial. It didn’t work and public outrage over the blatant disregard for facts reached new heights.

Former Interior Department climate scientist and whistleblower, Joel Clemente, even exposed how Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, lied about the U.S. Geological Survey having concerns over the climate assessment and tried to prevent the Survey from releasing its emissions report.

Still, not even Trump and his fossil fuel cronies can avoid accountability. For our part, we expect to engage more fiercely than ever in the courts, where observers expect the law will ensure science and facts prevail.

And, we expect to increasingly take it to the streets, rallying up our fellow Americans to directly protest and confront climate denial wherever it plays out. Last week, we joined more than 200 people in protesting the Administration’s sale of public lands for fracking New Mexico.

Until justice is served, the movement to keep our fossil fuels in the ground will only keep growing.

Jeremy Nichols

About the Author

Jeremy Nichols | Climate and Energy Program Director, WildEarth Guardians

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