Expected expansion of oil and gas development in the United States could push global warming to dangerous levels during the next five years.
With the industry anticipating a $1.4 trillion investment during that time, the subsequent developments could push global warming beyond 2 degrees Celsius, read a December report from the Global Gas and Oil Network.
Scientists estimated 1.5 Celsius increase could lead to dramatic changes in the world’s ecosystem.
The Network that authored the study titled Oil, Gas and Climate was comprised of numerous environmentalist groups around the world, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and Earthworks.
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The research found that most of the expected production would come from the United States and Canada, and that additional investments could cause another 148 gigatonnes of carbon emissions by 2050 – the equivalent of 1,200 new coal-fired power plants.
Nathalie Eddy, Earthworks field advocate for New Mexico and Colorado said hydraulic fracturing in the Permian Basin, one of the world’s most oil-rich shale plays situated in southeast New Mexico and West Texas, was expected to increase and could put local communities at risk by creating more air pollution and other environmental impacts.
“The oil and gas industry is betting big on fracking the Permian and building the infrastructure to export what it extracts. Unfortunately, that expansion is a carbon bomb waiting to explode with those living nearest at the most immediate risk,” she said.
“That’s why communities across the region are uniting to oppose this expansion, and even an oil and gas state like New Mexico is acting to rein in oil and gas methane pollution.”
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Per the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, nations throughout the world vowed to act to avoid 1.5 C increase in the global temperature, but the study showed companies plan to extract 120 percent more oil, gas and coal than would follow the agreement by 2030.
U.S. President Donald Trump announced in 2017 that the U.S. would withdraw from the agreement, but the study urged oil and gas companies to work to follow the accord and reduce their carbon emissions.
Jamie Henn, communications director at 350 Action – a New York-based environmentalist group – called on the federal government cease fossil fuel production.
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“Oil and gas companies have spent the last five decades lying to the public about the threat of climate change. Now they’re trying to sell themselves as part of the solution,” Jamie Henn said.
“The public isn’t falling for it. We know the only solution in line with the latest science is to stop all new fossil fuel projects and phase-out existing production as soon as possible.”
The report pointed to 25 companies that were responsible for the about 50 percent of the planned new production by 2050, including major oil and gas companies such as Royal Dutch Shell and BP.
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It called on governments to implement bans on licenses, contracts or permits for fossil fuel development, removing subsidies, and creating plans to transition workers and local communities away from extraction.
Hannah McKinnon, director of the energy transitions and futures program at Oil Change International called on called on major energy companies to move away from fossil fuels and embrace more renewable energy production.
“Leadership in the face of a climate emergency means no fossil fuel exploration, new expansion, or financing paired with an ambitious and just transition away from oil and gas production,” she said. “The cost of inaction is immeasurable not only in dollars, but in lives and livelihoods. Failure is not an option.”
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Last year, shareholder advocacy group As You Sow filed shareholder proposals with ExxonMobil and Chevron, calling on the major oil and gas producers to align with the Paris Agreement and curb pollution.
A study from Carbon Tracker reported 55 percent of Exxon’s production planned through 2040 was outside of the Paris Agreement, while Chevron had 35 percent.
While the companies have worked to cut some carbon emissions, As You Sow President Danielle Fugere said they weren’t going far enough.
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“Investors recognize that the climate crisis is fundamentally reordering the business world,” she said.
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the margins, while continuing business as usual as Exxon and Chevron are doing, is not a successful long-term business plan, especially when competitor companies are implementing new paths to thrive in a low-carbon economy.”
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, email@example.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.
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