The international campaign titled “keep it in the ground” and a new US bill are calling for a moratorium on the extraction of fossil fuels. The logic behind these efforts reflect the fact that the vast majority of existing fossil fuel reserves (coal, oil and gas) cannot be burned if we are to stay within our carbon budget and have a chance of keeping temperatures below the upper threshold limit of 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial times. The science is clear and the math is impossible to refute, we need to act quickly to radically reduce emissions from fossil fuels. Known fossil fuel reserves far exceed our carbon budget so sanity dictates that we must stop looking for new sources and we must limit extraction.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) two-thirds of the world’s coal, oil and gas reserves must stay in the ground to avoid triggering dangerous and irreversible climate change.
Keep it in the Ground is an international campaign designed to keep the majority of known fossil fuel reserves underground and move towards sustainable (renewable) sources of energy.
In the first week of November, Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders co-sponsored a new act called “Keep it in the Ground Act”. This bill is authored by Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and is supported by Democratic senators Barbara Boxer of California, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
This bill cements Sanders well earned reputation as the best presidential candidate to combat climate change. Sanders reinforced his climate leadership in the October 13th Democratic presidential debate.
This legislation could significantly reduce US emissions. It is estimated that around 25 percent of US emissions and 4 percent of global emissions emanate from public lands in the United States. As much as 450 billion tonnes of coal, oil and gas reserves are thought to be in lands and water under US government control. Ending new leases for fossil fuels will prevent the release of 90 percent of the potential emissions from Federal fossil fuels.
“We need to drive this understanding that for us to be good stewards of our planet, we must keep in the ground the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves,” Merkley explained last week.
The logic behind the keep it in the ground comes from the movie “Do the Math” inspired by well known climate activists Bill McKibben.
As Sanders explains:
“When it comes to climate change
there are massive attacks on scientists who tell us the truth about
[it]. Worry less about your campaign contributions, worry more about
your children and grandchildren. The debate is over.”
The proposed legislation would specifically prevent the extraction of
fossil fuels on public lands, the Arctic and the Atlantic. It would also
end non-producing leases on federal land, and would ban new leases in
the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.”
Sadly, Republican opposition to science based climate policy mean that this bill has almost no chance of becoming law.
President Obama has done more to address climate change than any president in US history. He has already curtailed Arctic drilling, cut emissions from US power plants, improved the fuel efficiency standards for vehicles sold in the US and most recently cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline.
Despite the President’s climate leadership, the new bill encourages him to act on fossil fuel extraction on public lands.
The bill also sends a message to presidential candidates and Americans who will be voting for a new president next year. “My hope is that all presidential candidates will join Sen. Merkley and
Sen. Warren and others in fighting for this legislation and standing up
to the fossil fuel industry,” Sanders said.