Trump's Drilling Leases on Public Lands Could Lead to 4.7B Metric Tons of Carbon Emissions
By Julia Conley
A national conservation group revealed Wednesday that President Donald Trump's drilling leases on public lands could lead to the release of more carbon emissions than the European Union contributes in an entire year.
The Wilderness Society estimates that U.S. companies will emit at least 854 million and as much as 4.7 billion metric tons of carbon if they develop leases in public waters and lands.
"Taking into account the potency of shorter-lived climate pollutants like methane, lifecycle emissions resulting from the development of these leases could be as high as 5.2 billion metric tons," the group's new report reads.
The 28 countries in the EU released four billion metric tons in one year, according to the most recent available data.
Regardless of exactly how many leases are put to use by oil and gas companies, the Wilderness Society reports, "These leasing decisions have significant and long-term ramifications for our climate and our ability to stave off the worst impacts of global warming."
Since taking office in 2017, Trump has offered up 378 million acres of public land to oil and gas companies and has sought to overturn the Obama administration's ban on coal leases.
Climate action groups and lawmakers have pushed back against the administration's plans. Earlier this month California Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), saying the federal government's plan to open up more than 725,000 acres across California amounted to an abdication of "our responsibility to protect our residents, our resources, and our right to pursue a future beyond fossil fuels."
In Arizona on Tuesday, the Center for Biological Diversity was among the conservation groups which sued the Trump administration over its approval of leases on more than 4,000 acres, which they say will threaten wildlife and water in the Coconino Aquifer and Petrified Forest National Park.
The Wilderness Society noted in its report on what it called "Trump's reckless leasing of public lands" that because of the federal government's lack of transparency regarding emissions on federal property, it can only estimate how much carbon dioxide will be released should the leases be developed.
Trump's mismanagement of public lands is contributing to #ClimateChange. Americans have been kept in the dark, but we're bringing the truth to light with our new #TrumpEmissions report. https://t.co/LQNVbqaGDq pic.twitter.com/2QupjkqDlC— Wilderness Society 🌳 (@Wilderness) July 16, 2019
"The federal government cannot manage what it does not measure, yet the Trump administration is actively seeking to suppress disclosure of the full sweep of climate emissions from fossil energy leases," reads the report.
The Trump administration, the Wilderness Society wrote, is currently discouraging BLM field offices from analyzing the potential effects of oil and gas extraction on public lands:
In June 2019, Trump's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released draft guidance on how federal agencies should consider [greenhouse gas] emissions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This guidance essentially allows federal agencies to avoid fully estimating emissions for these leases, enables agencies to skirt accounting for the cumulative effects of emissions across permitted projects, and fails to encourage agencies to identify lower-emitting alternatives.
"As the world works to respond to the dire warning issued last fall by the global climate science body about the pace and scale of greenhouse gas emissions declines needed to avoid catastrophic warming," wrote the Wilderness Society, "the American public cannot even find reliable information about the greenhouse gas emissions and climate impacts of how their resources are being put to use."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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