It’s a dog bites man story, really. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has spent millions upon millions denying climate science and otherwise standing in the way of action to address the climate crisis, recently put out a report extolling the supposed virtues of continued unchecked production of fossil fuels on our public lands.
In what may be similarly unsurprising news, I’m here to tell you that we, and many experts around the world, have a different view.
We won’t blame you if you’ve missed the Chamber’s new report. Despite the record amount of money spent on influencing our politics in recent years, it hasn’t gotten a lot of coverage.
But nevertheless, it’s worth a second to have a look at what could possibly be behind the Chamber’s new report.
It comes down to science. As recently as 2014, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce testified before Congress that the climate change science debate is less than settled, and “those that would say everything is settled sort of undercut the integrity of science.” They have yet to express a different view in public since, and continue to oppose the Paris Climate Agreement, the Clean Power Plan, and essentially any policy intended to address the climate crisis.
Meanwhile anyone who is paying attention to actual science knows that when it comes to human-caused climate change, the debate is, in fact, settled. And the President agrees:
"The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact." —President Obama #SOTU #ScienceSaysSo
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 29, 2014
So with this in mind…guess how many times the U.S. Chamber cites climate change in their report? Two times.
The first instance is in referring to the rationale Keep It In The Ground protesters use to push our case. (Guilty as charged). The second instance climate change is mentioned is in a quote from a Keep It In The Ground protester. (It’s a great quote!)
Put simply, there is no actual discussion of climate change in this report.
It’s irrational to talk about the Keep It In the Ground movement to protect our climate without actually talking about climate change in any real way. But even more so, it’s unconvincing to criticize an effort to address climate change without putting forward an alternative solution. And while the absence of an alternative solution may make their argument unconvincing, it’s not unsurprising: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce does not have a preferred solution to the climate crisis, because they don’t believe the climate crisis exists.
In the title of their report, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asks: “What if energy production was banned on federal lands and waters?”
We have a few answers for them:
- Oil spills such as the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico would be reduced.
- Ecosystems, like those needed to keep the Greater Sage Grouse from going extinct, would be better protected.
- Communities with railways in their backyards would have fewer fears about exploding oil “bomb trains”.
- Our chances of maintaining a stable climate would be greatly increased.
No one has claimed that putting an end to new fossil fuel leases on federal lands will solve the climate crisis on its own. But what we do suggest is that NOT ending new fossil fuel leasing on federal lands will make it nearly impossible to do so. As science has shown us — for those of us willing to actually listen to science — we must keep the vast majority of known fossil fuels in the ground if we are going to achieve our climate goals. And again, the President agrees:
Obama: "to prevent large parts of the Earth from becoming..uninhabitable, then we're going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground."
— InsideClimate News (@insideclimate) November 10, 2015
Keeping fossil fuels in the ground is essential to fighting climate change and, therefore, granting new leases to allow companies to explore for new fossil fuels is contradictory to our efforts to address the climate crisis.
So unless and until the U.S. Chamber of Commerce puts forth a serious alternative solution to the climate crisis, we humbly suggest you treat their report as seriously as the U.S. Chamber treats climate science itself.