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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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.