By Carla Ruas
The American Petroleum Institute has rolled out a multibillion-dollar public relations campaign stating that oil and gas can help to solve climate change. The association is claiming that expanding the use of fossil fuels can lower climate emissions that are trapping heat on our planet.
The Federal Government Has the Industry's Back<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjc2NzYzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MjQxNDA4Nn0.Qu9phx0-eKvPREoclvRs7ECj8QOiZX6KC5h19WK1mxY/img.jpg?width=980" id="6f3f7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5a3fdcc821bb97b7f9406e711f04ba6c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The federal government has been supportive of the oil and gas industry. Mason Cummings / The Wilderness Society<p>As fossil fuel companies attempt to rebrand themselves as "clean" to expand operations, the federal government has been giving them full support. So far, the Trump administration has offered 461 million acres of American public lands and waters for the development of oil and gas — an area technically bigger than the state of Alaska.</p><p>Catering public lands to fossil fuel extraction is highly irresponsible. They already contribute greatly to the climate change problem: Over 20 percent of total U.S. climate emissions come from oil, gas and coal extracted on those lands.</p><p>But from the very beginning, the Trump administration has managed public lands on behalf of corporate interests instead of the public. They have been offering sites to the industry at below-market rates and have <a href="https://www.wilderness.org/trumpemissions" target="_blank">purposely hidden the climate impact</a> of fossil fuel developments.</p><p>As the world strives to solve the climate crisis, we seem to be going in the wrong direction. The results could be catastrophic — especially for lower-income and communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by extreme weather events including hurricanes, floods and wildfires.</p>
The Real Solution: Healthy Lands<p>Instead of putting a band-aid on a bullet wound by investing in dirty energy to solve climate change, we need a long-term plan to reduce climate emissions.</p><p>We can start right here in our backyard: our shared public lands.</p><p>The federal government can easily reduce emissions stemming from public lands. They just have to reinstate limits on methane pollution, restrict the number of acres available for the oil and gas industry and charge a fair price for the land that is leased.</p><p>It gets better.</p><p>We can use this land to build <a href="https://www.wilderness.org/articles/blog/we-need-transition-dirty-clean-energy-heres-why" target="_blank">responsible renewable energy projects</a> such as wind turbines and solar panels. You know, the type that's actually clean. We can also foster natural carbon sinks—magical landscapes like the <a href="https://www.wilderness.org/articles/blog/why-its-important-keep-wildest-forests-free-roads-and-logging" target="_blank">Tongass National Forest in Alaska</a> that have the power to absorb carbon emissions. With this recipe, we can reach net-zero emissions on public lands and waters by 2030.</p><p>What's more, this approach is good for both the environment and people.</p><p>Less fossil fuel development on public lands will reduce air and visual pollution that so often burden local communities. Responsible renewable energy projects will put people to work. And healthy landscapes will strengthen climate resiliency for all and preserve our shared air, lands and waters.</p>
The Tongass National Forest is a natural carbon sink. Nelson Guda / The Wilderness Society<p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://www.wilderness.org/articles/blog/report-oil-and-gas-drilling-definitely-fueling-climate-change" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Wilderness Society</a></em></p>
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By Carla Ruas
A brand new year is upon us and the future is full of possibilities. We have the chance to do better — especially when it comes to tackling the climate crisis.
If we continue down this road we’re in big trouble.<p>As we enter 2020, the planet has already warmed 1.8°F since the pre-industrial era. We're also off-track to meet the Paris Agreement goals of keeping global temperature below 3.6°F in the next decade. </p><p>If nothing changes, the future with climate change will be harsh — especially for communities of color, lower-income communities and immigrant groups that are more vulnerable to impacts from extreme weather events such as heatwaves, flooding and hurricanes. </p><p>The United Nations recently warned that we need to be more aggressive in implementing climate solutions. That mostly means reducing climate emissions and boosting clean energy. In order to do that, we need to look beyond the usual tactics; we need to prioritize the needs of local communities over oil companies and rethink how we use our shared lands and waters.</p><h3>Here are five ways we can tackle the climate crisis in 2020 and beyond.</h3>
1. Cut fossil fuel extraction on America’s public lands.<p>This may come as a surprise, but American public lands are a huge source of climate emissions. More than 20 percent of the country's total emissions come from oil, natural gas and coal extracted on those sites. The federal government can easily turn this around by tightening leasing rules and charging fossil fuel companies a fair price for these lands. Right now, the Trump administration often gives acres away for the price of a cup of coffee.</p>
2. Use damaged land to boost clean energy.<p>We need to generate a lot more <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/renewable-energy/" rel="noopener noreferrer">renewable energy</a> to replace old, dirty energy and slow down the climate crisis. And we know the perfect places for new projects. A lot of public lands across the country have been abandoned after being used for mining, landfills and coal plants. These lots are perfect for clean energy sites, since they've already been disturbed in some way and <a href="https://www.wilderness.org/articles/blog/your-questions-answered-where-should-we-develop-renewable-energy" target="_blank">won't impact new wildlife habitats</a>.</p>
3. Protect and expand natural carbon sinks<p>Have you ever heard of carbon sinks? They are natural landscapes that have the power to absorb the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide. The Tongass Natural Forest in Alaska is the most prolific carbon sink in the country. From its trees to the underlying soil, it stores more carbon dioxide than any other forest in the country. We should take steps to preserve and expand the Tongass and other forests in the new year instead of opening them up to roads, <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/logging/" rel="noopener noreferrer">loggin</a>g and <a href="https://www.wilderness.org/articles/blog/why-its-important-keep-wildest-forests-free-roads-and-logging" target="_blank">other development</a>.</p>
4. Bring local communities to the table.<p>The climate crisis impacts some communities more than others, mostly lower-income and communities of color. Hispanic immigrants, for instance, have <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-temperature-immigrants-casualties/immigrant-workers-in-u-s-have-tripled-risk-for-heat-related-death-idUSKBN1DE2G3" target="_blank">more than three times the risk of dying from heat-related illnesses</a> likely due to outdoor working conditions and limited access to medical care.</p><p>Communities of color are also <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/03/11/air-pollution-inequality-minorities-breathe-air-polluted-whites/3130783002/" target="_blank">disproportionally impacted by the air pollution</a> that stems from fossil fuel sites. African Americans are exposed to about 56 percent more pollution than then they generate, while Hispanics bear the brunt with 63 percent. Dirty air has been associated with lung disease, heart disease and premature death. </p><p>If we're going to be successful in tackling climate change, these communities need to be a part of the conversation from the start. Their first-hand experiences and input are essential to make sure that we're not leaving anyone behind as we implement solutions.</p>
5. Support new climate legislations.<p>We can't move forward with any of the tactics above without having legislation in place that establish the right framework.</p><p>We're thrilled <a href="https://www.wilderness.org/articles/blog/new-climate-change-legislation-game-changer" target="_blank">a bill that was introduced in the House of Representatives</a> by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.). This historic bill would reduce and offset emissions from fossil fuel developments on public lands and waters. We're grateful to Chairman Grijalva for working to harness the power of our public lands to address the climate crisis and hope the Senate will do the same.</p><p>Laws to ensure that our climate lands are part of the climate solution are exactly what we need in 2020 to face the massive challenge that is climate change.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Carla Ruas
Elizabeth Perez was only 10 years old when she moved with her family to the city of Bakersfield, in California. Almost immediately, she says, she began experiencing nosebleeds, headaches and difficulty breathing. Perez was in and out of a local health clinic for years, but doctors couldn't quite pinpoint what was making her sick.
Elizabeth Perez experienced nosebleeds, headaches and difficulty breathing when she moved to Bakersfield, California.
Bakersfield, which suffers from air pollution, is a town where 50% of the population identifies as Hispanic or Latino.
David Siebold / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
The Central Valley region is already home to some of the nation's largest producing oil fields.
John Ciccarelli, BLM
By Katherine Arcement
Congress wants us to drill our lands and waters … or else!
Some members of Congress are trying to rig the system to use public lands primarily for oil and gas drilling, and they are threatening to silence and punish anyone who objects.
Researchers, led by paleontologist Rob Gay, have discovered what may be one of the world's richest caches of Triassic period fossils at an extensive site within the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument. The team's initial excavation led to the extraordinary discovery of several intact remains of crocodile-like animals called phytosaurs. The findings were publicly announced at this week's Western Association of Vertebrate Paleontologists (WAVP) annual conference where researchers warned of a growing threat to their work in the region.
New Report: Taxpayers Deserve Climate Impact Information for Fossil Fuel Development on Public Lands
A new report released Thursday by The Wilderness Society provides an in-depth look at the significant lifecycle emissions resulting from the development of fossil fuels on U.S. public lands, and the need for the federal government to account for and make available such data to the American public.
"The U.S. federal government is one of the largest energy asset managers in the world, and yet they are actively keeping their shareholders—American taxpayers—in the dark when it comes to energy development and its associated climate-related risks on our public lands," said Chase Huntley, energy and climate program director at The Wilderness Society.
During the government shutdown, visitors to public lands encountered locked doors, deserted parks and ambiguous instructions.
The third weekend in January kicked off with a federal government shutdown. At least some Americans went ahead with their plans to visit national parks and other public lands, perhaps heartened by Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's imprecise (yet exhaustively publicized) plan to keep them open.
Following the lead of Native American tribes, The Wilderness Society and other groups have filed lawsuits against President Trump for violating the Antiquities Act when he essentially eliminated Bears Ears and greatly reduced Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
Herd of caribou on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Izuru Toki / Flickr
The U.S. Senate has passed a Republican tax-reform package that contains a provision to authorize oil drilling on the coastal plain of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, placing the biological heart of one of our last pristine, untouched places in severe peril.
"This vote to deface and pollute one of the nation's last pristine and untouched wild landscapes is outrageous," said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, in a statement after the Senate passed the tax package. "The Arctic Refuge drilling provision has no legitimate place in a tax bill, and this backdoor political deal now threatens to destroy the crown jewel of our National Wildlife Refuge System."
Rep. Rob Bishop is moving legislation that would radically cut down the scope of the Antiquities Act, effectively blocking new protections of national monument lands.
Bishop's bill—in an Orwellian flourish, titled the "National Monument Creation and Protection Act"—would bar the Antiquities Act from being used to protect landmarks, prehistoric structures and objects of "scientific interest," switching the law's scope to the vague term "object or objects of antiquity."
A new report released Tuesday by The Wilderness Society raises the alarm about wild lands threatened by extractive industries eager to exploit the resources on or underneath them, including oil, gas and coal.
Too Wild To Drill identifies 15 unique places found on public lands that are at high risk of drilling, mining and other development—and the damage and destruction that inevitably follow. These lands provide Americans with important benefits such as clean air and water, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and jobs and other socioeconomic benefits.