U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Is Drilling Us Towards Climate Disaster
By Kelly Trout
As the 116th Congress commences, in the wake of dire reports from climate scientists, the debate over U.S. climate policies has taken a welcome turn towards bold solutions. Spurred on by grassroots pressure from Indigenous communities, the youth-led Sunrise Movement and communities from coast to coast fighting fossil fuel infrastructure, Capitol Hill is alive once again with policy proposals that edge towards the scale required to address the crisis we're in.
A new study released Wednesday by Oil Change International and 17 partner organizations makes it clear that managing a rapid and equitable decline of U.S. fossil fuel production must be a core component of any comprehensive climate policy.
Here's a breakdown of what we find in the report:
Existing Fossil Fuel Projects Are Too Much Already
Previous analysis of the global disconnect between fossil fuel industry plans and climate goals underlies our U.S. report. Existing oil and gas fields and coal mines around the world already contain enough carbon to push the world beyond the goals of the Paris agreement—and well beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C) of temperature rise (Figure 1). There is already no room for new fossil fuel development anywhere in the world. Meeting the Paris agreement goals requires stopping new exploration and extraction projects and managing the decline of the fossil fuel industry over the next few decades.
The U.S., as one of the world's largest extractors and emitters of fossil fuels—and as a wealthy country with the resources to manage a rapid and just transition to renewable energy—should be moving first and fastest to phase out fossil fuel production. Yet …
… U.S. Oil and Gas Extraction Is Rapidly Expanding
Our analysis shows that the U.S. is set to drive nearly 60 percent of global growth in oil and gas supply between now and 2030—expanding production by four times the amount of any other country (Figure 4). By contrast, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s recent Special Report on 1.5°C of Global Warming warns that the world needs to cut carbon emissions nearly in half by 2030 to keep warming within that limit.
Between 2018 and 2050—the time span over which fossil fuel emissions should be zeroing out—new U.S. drilling projects could unleash 120 billion tons of new carbon pollution (Figure 5). If left unchecked, this would amount to the world's largest burst of new carbon emissions from oil and gas development through 2050. It would be equivalent to the lifetime carbon pollution of nearly 1,000 average U.S. coal-fired power plants.
To summarize: At precisely the time when the world must rapidly decarbonize to avoid climate disaster, the U.S. is moving further and faster than any other country to expand oil and gas extraction.
If not stopped, this continued drilling spree would be a disaster not only for the climate but for communities on its front lines. Our analysis indicates that communities living atop and around the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico and the Appalachian Basin underlying Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia face the biggest onslaught of new drilling (Figure 9).
Upwards of 90 percent of the projected drilling expansion analyzed in our report would depend on fracking. This would bring with it more air and water pollution, health risks, heavy trucks taking over roadways and growing competition for water. It would mean more dangerous pipelines threatening the sovereign land and water sources of Indigenous peoples. It would mean more communities being entangled in a volatile industry that has no viable future on a livable planet.
What Does Real Climate Leadership Require?
Over the past decade plus, community-led movements have come together across North America to fight new pipelines, fracking rigs, export terminals and, increasingly, petrochemical plants. They've won crucial victories: Case in point, while still being pushed by its Canadian backers and the Trump administration, the Keystone XL pipeline still isn't built.
But too few U.S. politicians have used their own power to stop this spread of fossil fuel infrastructure and extraction. This is a major reason the oil and gas industry is in a position to drill us towards climate disaster. The industry is riding high off of decades of compounding policy decisions to lease federal and state lands and waters for extraction, to approve permits for new wells, pipelines and other infrastructure, to leave fracking woefully unregulated, to maintain billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies, and, at the end of 2015, to lift the four-decade-long ban on crude oil exports.
The U.S. is now the world's largest oil and gas producer and, increasingly, dumping our excess oil and gas into global markets, which drives down prices and undermines policies aimed at reducing demand for fossil fuels.
This report should be a wake-up call for elected officials and policymakers at all levels of U.S. government who consider themselves to be climate leaders. Real climate leadership requires decisively saying "no" to further expansion of the fossil fuel industry while enthusiastically saying "yes" to a renewable energy transition on the pace and scale of a Green New Deal.
Our report distills this into a five-point checklist for U.S. officials:
- Ban new leases or permits for new fossil fuel exploration, production and infrastructure (and reject existing proposals in the meantime);
- Plan for the phase-out of existing fossil fuel projects in a way that prioritizes environmental justice;
- End subsidies and other public finance for the fossil fuel industry;
- Champion a Green New Deal that ensures a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy; and
- Reject the influence of fossil fuel money over U.S. energy policy.
Every decision around a new fossil fuel lease, permit, subsidy or setback is an opportunity for U.S. politicians to stop fossil fuel expansion and champion a just transition to an economy powered by clean energy. The U.S. fossil fuel industry is gearing up to swing a giant wrecking ball through global climate goals. U.S. politicians cannot afford to stand by and let them … or worse yet, help swing it.
Trump’s NAFTA Replacement Ignores Climate Change, Favors Fossil Fuel Interests https://t.co/E67mHORPoV https://t.co/u6EnWCdYym— Renewable Search (@Renewable Search)1538482509.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Oil Change International.
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The temperature of the Arctic matters to the entire world: it helps to keep the global climate fairly cool. Scientists now say that by 2035 there could be an end to Arctic sea ice.
Melt Ponds Crucial<p>"The prospect of loss of sea ice by 2035 should really be focusing all our minds on achieving a low-carbon world as soon as humanly feasible."</p><p><a href="http://www.reading.ac.uk/search/search-staff-details.aspx?id=10813" target="_blank">Dr. David Schroeder from the University of Reading</a>, UK, who co-led the implementation of the melt pond scheme in the climate model, says, "This shows just how important sea ice processes like melt ponds are in the Arctic, and why it is crucial that they are incorporated into climate models."</p><p>The extent of the areas <a href="https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/seaice/characteristics/formation.html" target="_blank">sea ice</a> covers varies between summer and winter. If more solar energy is absorbed at the surface, and temperatures rise further, a cycle of warming and melting occurs during summer months.</p><p>When the ice forms, the ocean water beneath becomes saltier and denser than the surrounding ocean. Saltier water sinks and moves along the ocean bottom towards the equator, while warm water from mid-depths to the surface travels from the equator towards the poles.</p><p>Scientists refer to this process as the ocean's global "conveyor-belt." Changes to the volume of sea ice can disrupt normal ocean circulation, with consequences for global climate. </p>
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Putin's Daughter Among Vaccinated<p>The Russian leader also said that one of his daughters has already been inoculated and is feeling well.</p><p>"One of my daughters got vaccinated, so in this sense, she took part in the testing," Putin said.</p><p>After the first vaccine shot, his daughter experienced a slight fever, 38 degrees Celsius (100.4°F). Her temperature came down to just slightly above normal the next day. </p><p>"After the second shot, she had a slight fever again, and then everything was fine. She is feeling well and has a high antibody count," Putin said. </p><p>He didn't specify which of his two daughters, Maria or Katerina, received the vaccine.</p><p>Russian health authorities have said that medical workers, teachers and other risk groups will be the first to receive shots of the vaccine.</p>
Years of Work Reduced to Weeks<p>Russia is the first country to register a COVID-19 vaccine. As <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germany-coronavirus-vaccine-may-only-be-available-in-mid-2021/a-54362065" target="_blank">countries worldwide race to produce the first vaccine</a>, health experts warn that speed and national pride could compromise safety.</p><p>Scientists in Russia and abroad have questioned Moscow's decision to register the vaccine before Phase 3 trials that normally last for months and involve thousands of people, but Putin emphasized that the vaccine underwent the necessary trials and that vaccination will be voluntary.</p><p>Russian officials have said that large-scale production of the vaccine will begin in September, and mass vaccination may start as early as October.</p><p>Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, has <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippines-duterte-volunteers-to-be-putins-russian-coronavirus-vaccine-guinea-pig/a-54523030" target="_blank">lauded Russia's efforts in developing the vaccine</a> and said that the Philippines is ready to work with Moscow on vaccine trials, supply and production. Duterte volunteered to "be the first they can experiment on."</p><p>"I will tell President Putin that I have huge trust in your studies in combating COVID and I believe that the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity," Duterte said, adding that he thinks Russia's vaccine will be ready for the Philippines by December.</p>
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By Arkilaus Kladit
My name is Arkilaus Kladit. I'm from the Knasaimos-Tehit tribe in South Sorong Regency, West Papua Province, Indonesia. For decades my tribe has been fighting to protect our forests from outsiders who want to log it or clear it for palm oil. For my people, the forest is our mother and our best friend. Everything we need to survive comes from the forest: food, medicines, building materials, and there are many sacred sites in the forest.
Map of the Knasaimos traditional lands.
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Overthinkers are people who are buried in their own obsessive thoughts. Imagine being in a large maze where each turn leads into an even deeper and knottier tangle of catastrophic, distressing events — that is what it feels like to them when they think about the issues that confront them.
Ruminating<p>According to the late Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a professor of psychology at Yale University, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796420/" target="_blank">ruminating</a> involves replaying a problem over and over in your mind. We ruminate by obsessing over our thoughts and thinking repetitively about various aspects of a past situation.</p><p>It usually involves regret, self-loathing and self-blaming. Rumination is associated with the development of depression, anxiety and eating disorders. </p><p>People prone to such patterns of thought may, for example, overanalyze every single detail of a relationship that breaks up. They often blame themselves for what has happened and are overcome with regret, with typical thoughts being: </p><p>- I should have been more patient and more supportive. </p><p>- I have lost the most perfect partner ever. </p><p>- No one will love me again.</p>
Worrying<p>Worrying is wanting to predict the future. It involves negative thoughts about things that might and might not happen.</p><p>- They'll not like me in the interview; they'll not give me the job. </p><p>- I haven't heard back from other employers. How long will I be unemployed?</p><p>These thoughts are energy-draining and distressing. They could happen to anyone under stress. But when you reach the point where your thoughts and worrying are preventing you from doing what you want to do — from living your life to the fullest — then you should take action.</p>
Catch Yourself Overthinking<p>Reuben Berger, a psychotherapist at the university hospital in the western German city of Bonn, recommends several practical steps that you could employ in your daily routine when you catch yourself worrying or ruminating.</p><p>One effective remedy, says Berger, is the <a href="https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uf9938" target="_blank">thought-stopping technique.</a></p><p>"When the negative thoughts come or ruminations start, you say to yourself: 'Stop!,'" he says, adding that it is more effective when you actually say the word out loud.</p><p>He even recommends having a rubber band around your wrist to ping against yourself while saying the word. Adding a visual component by imagining a stop sign also makes the technique more powerful, he says.</p><p>The main idea here is conditioning yourself to stop the loop of worrying (making future predictions) or rumination (obsessing over past events).</p><p>Berger says the technique could take up to two weeks to take effect and that it needs to be practiced every day. "Consistency is very important," he says. </p>
Thoughts Are Just Thoughts<p>Another way of dealing with negative thoughts often used in modern therapy is realizing that thoughts aren't facts, says Berger.</p><p>He says it is important when we think something to ask: Is that real? Did that really happen? What is the worst thing that could happen?</p><p>Flight anxiety is one example where untrue thoughts are accepted as facts. Although air travel is the safest way to get around, people suffering from fear of flying accept their thoughts and fears as reality, then act upon them by refusing to fly.</p>
Mindfulness<p>Berger also recommends the use of mindfulness techniques, in which attention is paid to experiences in the moment without judging them, as a way of reducing worrying.</p><p>"Mindfulness helps you to distance yourself from your thoughts and to be more present in the moment," he says.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3432145/#R2" target="_blank">Several studies</a> have shown that mindfulness has a positive impact on reducing stress-related behaviors such as rumination and worrying, as focusing on the moment makes anxiety about other problems impossible.</p><p>Mindfulness can be practiced during routine activities by paying attention to your body and your surroundings. For instance, when you leave for work in the morning, you can focus on sensing the breeze, listen attentively to birds, feel the gravel under your feet and monitor your breath. </p>
Trick Your Brain Into Happiness<p>People plagued by obsessive thoughts do not always choose healthy ways like mindfulness to distract from them, however.</p><p> Dr. Edward Selby, a psychologist at Florida state university, has shown in a study that people try to avoid rumination by engaging in a range of uncontrolled behaviors, such as binge eating and substance abuse.</p><p>But he says that a much better way to overcome such distress is by distraction and shifting attention away from problems that are obsessing us.</p><p>There are many activities that can be used to distract from rumination, he says, and people should choose the one that works best for them. Here are some examples:</p><p>- Listen to music</p><p>- Read a book</p><p>- Take a hot shower</p><p>- Dance or exercise </p><p>- Talk to a friend (not about the problem)</p><p>- Watch a movie</p><p>- Mindfulness meditation</p>
Changing the Perception of Events<p>The way people perceive a situation largely influences their emotions and behavior. It is not the situation itself that determines how they feel, but rather the way they interpret it.</p><p>Reframing negative thoughts can lead to positive emotions and, subsequently, healthier behaviors — including a reduction in damaging overthinking and worrying.</p><p>Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is currently a gold standard in psychotherapy. CBT aims to change the way people think and act. It largely involves challenging unhelpful beliefs or attitudes such as overgeneralization — thinking "I always fail at public speaking" when you have had one bad experience in front of an audience, for example — or "catastrophization," i.e., imagining the worst possible outcome to a situation. </p><p>A psychotherapist can teach people how to implement such thought-changing techniques into their lives. Techniques vary depending on their issues and goals.</p>
Solutions Are at Hand<p>Try to find ways of avoiding worrying, rumination and overthinking that make you feel most comfortable.</p><p>Incorporating any routine in your life when you're stressed isn't an easy task, but you can do it! If you feel overwhelmed, you can always seek professional help. </p><p><em>If you are suffering from serious emotional strain or suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to seek professional help. You can find information on where to find such help, no matter where you live in the world, <a href="https://www.befrienders.org/" target="_blank">at this website.</a></em></p>
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