Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

The Research Is In: Regulations Alone Won’t Save Us From Climate Disaster

Climate
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 COemitted 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

Flood Tide for the Climate Movement: How India and California Are Leading the Way

Leave Fossil Fuels Untapped to Prevent Catastrophic Climate Change, Study Urges

3 Ways a Republican-Controlled Congress Can Herald Action on Climate Change

A Brood X cicada in 2004. Pmjacoby / CC BY-SA 3.0

Fifteen states are in for an unusually noisy spring.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A creative depiction of bigfoot in a forest. Nisian Hughes / Stone / Getty Images

Deep in the woods, a hairy, ape-like man is said to be living a quiet and secluded life. While some deny the creature's existence, others spend their lives trying to prove it.

Read More Show Less

Trending

President of the European Investment Bank Werner Hoyer holds a press conference in Brussels, Belgium on Jan. 30, 2020. Dursun Aydemir / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

By Jon Queally

Noted author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben was among the first to celebrate word that the president of the European Investment Bank on Wednesday openly declared, "To put it mildly, gas is over" — an admission that squares with what climate experts and economists have been saying for years if not decades.

Read More Show Less

A dwarf giraffe is seen in Uganda, Africa. Dr. Michael Brown, GCF

Nine feet tall is gigantic by human standards, but when researcher and conservationist Michael Brown spotted a giraffe in Uganda's Murchison Falls National Park that measured nine feet, four inches, he was shocked.

Read More Show Less
Kelsey Mueller, 16, pets Ruby while waiting with her family to be escorted from the evacuation zone at the Shaver Lake Marina parking lot off of CA-168 during the Creek Fire on Sept. 7, 2020 in Shaver Lake, California. Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

By Daisy Simmons

In a wildfire, hurricane, or other disaster, people with pets should heed the Humane Society's advice: If it isn't safe for you, it isn't safe for your animals either.

Read More Show Less