For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Micah Parkin, micah@350colorado.org, 504-258-1247  Julia Williams, outreach@350colorado.org, 970-948-1439

New Report Finds Oil and Gas Industry Responsible for 70 percent of Colorado’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Environmental groups call for a complete phase-out of the oil and gas industry over the next 10 years to achieve state’s climate goal.

WASHINGTON - Nonprofit organization 350 Colorado released a report today outlining Colorado’s dangerous underestimation of the oil and gas industry’s contribution to the state greenhouse gas emissions. The report “Avoiding a Roadmap to Climate Catastrophe” finds that the oil and gas sector is currently responsible for 70 percent of Colorado’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in comparison to the state’s estimation of just 17.3 percent (a +52.7 percent difference). 

The report criticizes and provides recommendations to Colorado’s GHG Emissions Reduction Roadmap, the state's current plans to meet the emission reduction goals set by the Legislature in HB 19-1261. The report highlights the state’s failure to implement recommendations from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to deliver “rapid and far-reaching” transitions and “deep emissions reductions in all sectors” to keep global temperature rise below 1.5℃. The IPCC warns that net zero GHG emissions by 2037 are needed for a 66 percent chance of achieving that goal. Instead, Colorado’s HB-1261 Roadmap allows for an 86 percent increase in oil production and a 41 percent increase in gas production by 2030, which results in a 61 percent increase in GHG emissions (at average observed leakage rates). 

“If Colorado truly wants to lead in global efforts to solve the climate crisis, our state must begin with an honest and accurate accounting of Colorado’s actual GHG emissions resulting from the oil and gas sector and use that to guide policy decisions for attainment of our state’s GHG emission reduction goals,” said 350 Colorado Executive Director Micah Parkin. 

350 Colorado analyzed data from Colorado’s draft GHG Emissions Reduction Roadmap and used the best available science and recommendations from researchers at Cornell and the state of New York's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA 2019). 

“Accurately quantifying and including methane within state-level accounting is critically important because it will enable policy that will help us meet the climate challenge," said New York Assemblyman Steve Englebright, who sponsored the state of New York's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act that incorporated the more protective assumptions recommended in the 350 Colorado report.

The report identified four main problems with the state’s current emission estimations and projections regarding the oil and gas sector in the draft Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Roadmap: 

  1. The Roadmap relies on outdated assumptions, including using a 100-year global warming potential (GWP) factor of 28 for potent leaks of methane, when best available science now recommends using a more accurate 20-year GWP factor of 86 (minimum) to reflect the powerful heat-trapping effect of this short-lived gas, which averages about 12 years in the atmosphere.
  2. The proposed roadmap assumes current methane leakage rates self-reported by industry that researchers from Cornell University have shown are unrealistically low.
  3. The Roadmap does not consider the emissions of oil and gas produced in Colorado and then exported out of state.
  4. The state’s Roadmap overestimates potential reductions in methane leakage, coming to a faulty conclusion that oil and gas production can be increased while emissions decrease. 

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“The original choice of 100 years by the Kyoto Protocol was arbitrary, and as we have learned more about the role of methane in global warming in the years since 1997, a growing number of researchers have called for using a 20-year time frame, either instead of or in addition to the 100-year approach,” said Robert W. Howarth, Ph.D. of Cornell University whose book Methane and Climate Change is referenced throughout the report. Dr. Howarth is a leading world expert on methane emissions from shale gas as a driver of climate change.

The report provides recommendations to the Polis administration for improving the roadmap, urging state officials to start with the most accurate, science-based assumptions to create an accurate 2019 baseline of emissions from Colorado’s oil and gas sector. Additionally, the report calls for a rapid phase-out and just transition off oil and gas development in Colorado, calling for a 10 percent per year reduction in emissions for a full phase-out of oil and gas production in Colorado by 2030. 

“It is critically important to reduce methane emissions in a shorter time frame in order to reduce the risk of moving past tipping points in the climate system, reduce damage to society and natural ecosystems from global warming over the coming decades, and provide the best chance of meeting the COP21 climate goals,” said Dr. Howarth. “Given the state of increasing climate disruption in 2020, the continued use of natural gas would be a bridge to disaster. Atmospheric methane has been rising rapidly over the past decade, after having been stable to the first decade of the 21st Century. Given a full lifecycle emission rate of 4.1 percent of  production, shale gas is responsible for almost half of the total global increase in atmospheric methane from all sources since 2005. This increase makes it far more difficult to meet the COP21 target of keeping the Earth well below 2C from the pre-industrial baseline.” 

350 Colorado is circulating a sign-on letter that has already been signed by 19 organizations urging the Polis administration to implement these recommendations. They plan to deliver the letter in two weeks. 

Read the full "Avoiding a Roadmap to Climate Catastrophe" report here.

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350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth. But solutions exist. All around the world, a movement is building to take on the climate crisis, to get humanity out of the danger zone and below 350. This movement is massive, it is diverse, and it is visionary. We are activists, scholars, and scientists. We are leaders in our businesses, our churches, our governments, and our schools. We are clean energy advocates, forward-thinking politicians, and fearless revolutionaries. And we are united around the world, driven to make our planet livable for all who come after us.

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