Ending new fossil fuel leasing on lands and offshore areas controlled by the US government would keep up to 450 billion tons of greenhouse gases from polluting the atmosphere, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by EcoShift on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth.
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The analysis, The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions of U.S. Federal Fossil Fuels, models the lifecycle greenhouse gas pollution that would result from developing federally controlled coal, oil shale, natural gas, crude oil and tar sands on public lands and offshore ocean areas under government control.
Allowing these publicly owned fossil fuels to be developed would cripple the US’s ability to meet its obligations to avert the worst effects of the global climate crisis, the report concludes.
‘The facts have been increasingly clear for a long time, and we believe that this analysis finally puts the issue of continued development of federal fossil reserves to rest. We cannot afford to continue ignoring reality.’
Dr Alexander Gershenson, EcoShift principal
If developed, potential greenhouse gas emissions of leased and unleased federal fossil fuels would release up to 492 gigatons (Gt) (one gigaton equals 1 billion tons) of carbon dioxide equivalent pollution (CO2e). That represents 46-50% of potential emissions from all remaining US fossil fuels.
Releasing the 450 Gt CO2e that have not yet been leased to private industry for extraction (the equivalent annual pollution of more than 118,000 coal-fired power plants) would be incompatible with any US share of global carbon limits that would keep emissions below scientifically advised levels.
‘Our climate can’t afford the pollution from more federal fossil fuel leasing. The natural place for President Obama to start leading the global fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground is on our public lands and oceans.’
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity
Federal agencies don’t track or report the nationwide cumulative greenhouse gas emissions that result from federal leasing of fossil fuel reserves. Likewise, they don’t assess the potential emissions of remaining fossil fuel resources and reserves.
‘Our government has already leased more public fossil fuels than can safely be burned. Each new lease puts us farther down the path toward climate catastrophe, and is a direct contradiction to the president’s pledge to attack the climate crisis head-on.’
Marissa Knodel, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that maintaining a good chance of avoiding 2°C warming by the century’s end requires limiting global emissions to about 1390 Gt CO2e (or 1000 Gt CO2).
Emissions from unleased federal fossil fuels exceed US emissions quotas for maintaining only a 50% chance of avoiding 2°C of warming. The potential emissions of unleased federal fossil fuels are entirely precluded after factoring in the emissions of developing non-federal and already leased federal fossil fuels.
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