Obama’s Climate Change Blind Spot
President Barack Obama’s recent promise to “lead by example” on climate had the potential to be a major step forward. But sadly, his latest pledge to reduce greenhouse gases seems poised to keep our nation moving backward. While he committed to reducing greenhouse gases within the federal government by 40 percent over the next decade, he completely ignored one of the most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions under his control: fossil fuel production from public lands owned by every American.
A report released by The Wilderness Society and the Center for American Progress on the same day the president issued his newest climate promise found that oil, gas and coal produced from federally managed public lands are responsible for a whopping 21 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gases. Coal from public lands alone accounts for more than half of those emissions.
Far from a trivial oversight, the numbers reflect a dangerous disconnect. While the president announced his plan would reduce emissions by 26 million metric tons annually – the equivalent of taking 5.5 million cars off the road for a year – fossil fuel production on public lands is responsible for more than 1.3 billion metric tons, equivalent to keeping 283 million cars on the road.
These emissions stem from coal strip mined in Montana and Wyoming, offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf and extensive fracking on iconic public lands in the Rocky Mountains. All of this is occurring with the approval of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which is charged with managing our public lands and minerals.
Describing this as a blind spot is actually putting it mildly. The Interior Department knows full well that its decisions to approve more oil, gas and coal lead to the release of massive amounts of greenhouse gases. The agency simply denies that this matters.
In a proposal to approve nearly 60 million tons of coal mining in Utah, for example, the department disclosed quite candidly that its decision would unleash more than 120 million metric tons of carbon. Yet it dismissed these emissions as insignificant, arguing they would be too small to matter.
This isn’t the worst of it. In a recent proposal to auction off public lands for oil and gas drilling and fracking in southern Utah, the Department expressly denied climate change, asserting that, “there is a substantial amount of professional disagreement and uncertainty as to what impacts greenhouse gases have on climate.”
Meanwhile, the agency has proposed to open up millions more acres of public lands for the oil, gas and coal industry to expand. Whether explicit or implied, the message is clear: the Department of the Interior has no interest in confronting the climate impacts of fossil fuels.
In fact, when pressed recently, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell acknowledged there is no concrete strategy to address the climate impacts of fossil fuels produced from public lands. Instead, she said, “it’s something we need to talk about.”
Leading means more than talking. Amidst raging drought, extreme weather and climbing sea level, it’s all too clear that we need to drastically curtail greenhouse gas emissions if we have any hope of safeguarding our climate. This is a simple and immutable fact.
To this end, if the president is serious about combating climate change, it’s time to confront climate denial at the Interior Department and to put our nation on the path to reducing greenhouse gases from public oil, gas and coal production.
For our climate and for our future, it’s time to start keeping our fossil fuels in the ground.
Original post can be found here: http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2015/04/06/obamas-climate-change-blind-spot-emissions-from-public-lands