The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
The Research Is In: Regulations Alone Won’t Save Us From Climate Disaster
We are convinced that any serious attempt to address climate change means that a large portion of the natural gas, oil and coal currently locked underground must remain unexploited. Unfortunately, rather than aggressively deploying renewable energy resources, the Obama administration has opted to allow polluters to continue burning these dirty, polluting fossil fuels. Case in point: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is due to soon release rules to regulate methane leaks from natural gas production and transportation. But two new reports released this week underscore the importance of keeping fossil fuels where they belong—underground.
This week, Nature published a peer-reviewed paper estimating the percentages of fossil fuels that must remain unburned. This came on the heels of our own analysis of how much natural gas, specifically, should not be exploited.
The Nature researchers based their numbers on a scenario prioritizing the cheapest fossil fuels, weighted (or penalized) by a selected measure of their contribution to global warming. The authors found that in order to have only a 50-50 chance of remaining below a 2-degree (Celsius) temperature increase and avoid catastrophic climate change, about 80 percent of coal reserves, 30 percent of oil reserves and 50 percent of natural gas reserves must remain underground.
However, these percentages were calculated before accounting for “technically recoverable resources,” meaning, that most of the shale gas the industry expects to extract by fracking, was not considered.
Food & Water Watch’s analysis calculated a more conservative “budget” that would provide a 75 percent chance of remaining below the 2 degrees Celsius warming line. Even with ambitious plans for ramping down coal and oil use, this budget is busted by the CO2 emitted from burning fracked natural gas.
In both studies, there’s an implicit budget for methane emissions too, but widespread drilling and fracking would likewise break that limit. The EPA plans to issue regulations for methane leaking due to drilling and fracking, but this industry cannot be regulated properly. Simply put, the Obama administration’s methane regulations are equivalent to putting lipstick on a pig—they address the problem, but they don’t exactly fix it.
Policymakers would like to pretend they can have their cake and eat it too, appeasing the industry’s desire to continue producing, while also saving the climate. But as the research shows, you can’t have it both ways. Food & Water Watch’s analysis looked at what the world can afford in terms of climate change, not dollars. The U.S. is poised to become a world leader on curbing climate change, but for that to happen, we need to implement real solutions, rather than pandering to special oil and gas industry interests and their powerful lobbyists.
In short, both sets of research demonstrate that policies encouraging fossil fuel development and production are bankrupt. The only responsible path forward is to keep coal, oil and natural gas underground. The time has come to aggressively overhaul our nation’s energy system, incentivizing renewable energy and energy efficiency. Rather than supporting conventional fuels through tax breaks and subsidies, we need our leaders to have the courage to forge a real path toward energy security and independence.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Zak Smith
It is pretty amazing that in this moment when the COVID-19 outbreak has much of the country holed up in their homes binging Netflix, the most watched show in America over the last few weeks has been focused on wildlife trade — which scientists believe is the source of the COVID-19 pandemic. Make no mistake: Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is about wildlife trade and other aspects of wildlife exploitation, just as surely as the appearance of Ebola, SARS, MERS, avian flu and probably COVID-19 in humans is a result of wildlife exploitation. As a conservationist, this is one of the things I've been thinking about while watching Tiger King. Here are five more:
By Hector Chapa
With the coronavirus pandemic quickly spreading, U.S. health officials have changed their advice on face masks and now recommend people wear cloth masks in public areas where social distancing can be difficult, such as grocery stores.
But can these masks be effective?
By Carey Gillam
Bayer AG is reneging on negotiated settlements with several U.S. law firms representing thousands of plaintiffs who claim exposure to Monsanto's Roundup herbicides caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, sources involved in the litigation said on Friday.
With many schools now closed due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, you may be looking for activities to keep your children active, engaged, and entertained.
Although numerous activities can keep kids busy, cooking is one of the best choices, as it's both fun and educational.
Germany's target for renewable energy sources to deliver 65% of its consumed electricity by 2030 seemed on track Wednesday, with 52% of electricity coming from renewables in 2020's first quarter. Renewable energy advocates, however, warned the trend is imperiled by slowdowns in building new wind and solar plants.