The Cause is Just and the Case is Clear

A group of our fellow environmental advocates gathered at the White House this week to call on President Obama to end oil, gas and coal production on federal lands as a way to build on his campaign to fight global climate change.

The cause is just - and the case is clear.

The carbon pollution from burning oil, gas and coal is what's driving climate chaos. Our president has done more than any other leader to cut this pollution from our cars, trucks and power plants.

Why would we potentially undercut those gains by burning more fossil fuel the oil, gas and coal industries dig up from our public lands?

To win the fight against climate change, we need a comprehensive and coherent plan, not a mixed bag of contradictions and cross purposes.

That's why NRDC is working with our environmental partners to urge the administration to phase out oil, gas and coal production on federal lands and waters and to accelerate the responsible production of clean, renewable power from the wind and sun on those public lands where it's appropriate.

The science is emphatic. We have already discovered, globally, four times as much fossil fuel as we can afford to burn (pg. 63) if we're going to protect future generations from the dangers of climate change.

That means we need to power our economy into the 21st Century with clean energy, not anchor our future to the fossil fuels of the past. Our public lands and waters must be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

We have called for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," on public lands, because we lack adequate protections against the dangers these industrial operations pose to our air, water, wildlife and lands.

We're working to protect Arctic and Atlantic waters from the risks of a BP-style blowout, by pressing the administration to take those waters off the table to oil and gas drilling.

We're helping the administration to expand the development of wind and solar power on federal lands where appropriate, while insisting on protecting those areas where energy development is incompatible with responsible stewardship of those lands.

We're standing up for policies that promote conservation. We're defending public lands against the risks of fossil fuel production, as well as logging, mining and other industrial and commercial operations. And we've led, for decades, the call to reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels, and all the danger, damage and destruction they bring, by speeding the transition to clean, reliable and sustainable energy.

That means cleaning up the dirty power plants that account for 40 percent of our carbon footprint. It means improving fuel mileage for our cars and trucks. Investing in efficiency in our workplaces and homes. Getting more power from the wind and sun. And building, right here in this country, the best all-electric and hybrid cars anywhere in the world.

Climate change is the central environmental challenge of our time. We just finished, in July, the hottest month ever recorded. Last year was the hottest year since global record-keeping began in 1880. The first seven months of this year were even hotter still. And 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have all occurred this century.

Through rising seas, widening deserts, withering drought and raging fires, floods, storms and more, the earth is telling us every way it knows how that we need to cut the dangerous fossil fuel pollution that is driving climate change - and we need to do it now.

We can't keep going to the ends of the earth, digging up every last bit of oil, gas and coal, and setting it on fire. We can't afford to burn all the fossil fuels we've already discovered, much less put irreplaceable resources at risk to drill and mine for even more.

We've known that for years. Now we know the fix: start making smarter choices about the fossil fuels we've already discovered, and invest in the clean energy future we know can help put Americans to work, make our country more secure and create a healthier future for our children.

Our public lands and waters are a public trust, set aside over many decades by forward looking leaders, from both political parties, so that future generations of Americans might know the natural splendor of our country as the first Americans saw it.

That's a promise we've made to our children. It's a promise we're going to keep. It's a promise made all the more urgent by the more imperative that we protect future generations from the dangers of climate change. And it's a promise lit bright with opportunity to help us, as a nation, to turn away from the dirty fossil fuels of yesterday and embrace the clean energy solutions of tomorrow.