As the scientific community warns the world must dramatically and rapidly slash carbon emissions to avert global climate disaster, the United States is expanding fossil fuel extraction far more quickly than any other nation and is on pace to account for 60 percent of the global growth in oil and gas production between now and 2030.
"We need a complete overhaul of our economy with a Green New Deal, and that overhaul must include standing up to the fossil fuel industry in order to take us off this path of devastation for our climate and communities."
—Kelly Trout, Oil Change International
These are just two alarming findings from a report (pdf) published Wednesday by Oil Change International (OCI), which warns that—unless radical action on the scale of a Green New Deal is taken—U.S. fossil fuel production could single-handedly imperil the world's ability to adequately confront the climate crisis before it's too late.
"Our findings present an urgent and existential emergency for lawmakers in the United States at all levels of government. The oil and gas industry is expanding further and faster in the United States than in any other country at precisely the time when we must begin rapidly decarbonizing to prevent runaway climate disaster," said Kelly Trout, senior research analyst at OCI and co-author of the report, which was produced in collaboration with 350.org, Friends of the Earth, and over a dozen other progressive organizations.
"This report should be a wake-up call for elected officials who consider themselves to be climate leaders," Trout added. "We need a complete overhaul of our economy with a Green New Deal, and that overhaul must include standing up to the fossil fuel industry in order to take us off this path of devastation for our climate and communities. Anything less than a full, swift, and just managed decline of fossil fuel production is too little, too late."
Titled "Drilling Towards Disaster," OCI's report estimates that the continued expansion of massive fossil fuel extraction and pipeline projects throughout the U.S. under President Donald Trump has put the nation on track to account for 60 percent of global growth in fossil fuel production between 2019 and 2030—the year by which United Nations experts say the world must cut carbon emissions in half to avert planetary catastrophe.
According to OCI's research, the U.S. is expanding oil and gas extraction "at least four times more than any other country."
Additionally, the new analysis finds that the United States is on pace to release 120 billion tons of new carbon pollution—"equivalent to the lifetime CO2 emissions of nearly 1,000 coal-fired power plants"—into the atmosphere between 2018 and 2050.
"If not curtailed, U.S. oil and gas expansion will impede the rest of the world's ability to manage a climate-safe, equitable decline of oil and gas production," the report warns.
OCI's report comes just days after new figures from the independent research firm Rhodium Group showed that carbon emissions surged by 3.4 percent in 2018, thanks in part to the Trump Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ongoing efforts to roll back regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas pollution.
To begin reversing this planet-threatening increase in fossil fuel production—which the Trump administration has gleefully touted as the president denies the human caused-climate crisis—OCI's report offers a series of recommendations that would begin aligning U.S. policy with the urgent demands of the scientific evidence.
These recommendations include:
- Banning all "new leases, licenses, or permits that enable new fossil fuel exploration or production, or new long-lived infrastructure such as pipelines, export terminals, or refineries";
- Developing a plan to phase out existing fossil fuel production that priorities the poor and vulnerable communities that are most severely impacted by the climate crisis;
- Halting all "subsidies and other public finance for the fossil fuel industry";
- Backing a Green New Deal that "ensures a rapid and just transition to 100 percent renewable energy";
- Rooting out the influence of fossil fuel money on the American political system.
As Common Dreams has reported, momentum for a Green New Deal has grown throughout the U.S. thanks to persistent organizing and action by the youth-led Sunrise Movement and bold progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who helped push the ambitious proposal into mainstream political discussion.
"Right now, we're on a sinking boat, and instead of just scooping water out, we must take immediate action to patch the hole where it's gushing in."
—Patrick McCully, Rainforest Action Network
According to a survey published in December, 81 percent of Americans support a Green New Deal.
May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, said in a statement that OCI's research "adds even more urgency to the need for a just transition off of fossil fuels to a renewable energy economy."
"To prevent the worst impacts of climate change, we must keep oil, coal, and gas in the ground," Boeve said. "It's time for public officials at every level to follow the lead of communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis and support bold climate policy."
Patrick McCully of the Rainforest Action Network agreed, noting that incremental measures are not nearly enough to sufficiently address the global climate crisis and prevent the worst-case scientific predictions from becoming reality.
"Right now, we're on a sinking boat, and instead of just scooping water out, we must take immediate action to patch the hole where it's gushing in," McCully concluded. "This means we must put a full-stop to fossil fuel expansion, or we all sink into climate chaos. U.S. policymakers—as well as the private sector, like the Wall Street banks that are funding this extraction—must facilitate phasing out extraction while phasing in an equitable transition to renewable energy that supports communities and workers."