Scientists urge Jerry Brown to halt oil, gas production

Source: Anne C. Mulkern, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, July 13, 2018

California must end oil and gas drilling in the state to help meet the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit climate impacts, a group of scientists will tell Gov. Jerry Brown (D) today.

An alliance of 26 climate scientists plans to send a letter to Brown urging him to halt approvals of new oil and gas projects and to develop a “fair plan” to phase out fossil fuel extraction in the state.

It’s essential to limit global temperature increase to less than 2 degrees Celsius and ideally less than 1.5 degrees by 2100, the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the group said.

“These actions are grounded in science and are necessary to avoid the worst damages from climate change,” the scientists said in the letter. “We urge you to lead the world forward by announcing, before the Global Climate Action Summit in September, that California will confront its own oil and gas production as a critical part of its overall climate policy.”

The Brown administration is organizing its Global Climate Action Summit, planned for September in San Francisco. Brown, who was named a special United Nations adviser for subnational governments to last year’s climate talks in Germany, is convening the conference with the aim of strengthening governments’ commitments to the Paris Agreement (ClimateWire, July 11).

Scientists signing the letter included those from Harvard University; Stanford University; Cornell University; the University of Maryland; the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; the University of California, Berkeley; UCLA; UC Santa Barbara; UC Santa Cruz; and UC San Diego.

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said California is one of the nation’s top oil-producing states and that 75 percent of the oil produced in the Golden State is as “at least as carbon-intensive as Canada’s tar sands crude.”

Brown’s regulators have issued permits for more than 20,000 new oil and gas wells since the governor took office in 2011, CBD said. It cited a May report from an alliance of environmental and other groups.

New approvals of fossil fuel projects lock-in carbon emissions for decades, the scientists said.

“We cannot afford to wait any longer to place science-based limits on fossil fuel extraction,” the letter said. “While we appreciate the significant political challenges inherent in championing any climate policy, allowing continued unabated fossil fuel extraction will prevent the world from meeting the Paris climate targets.”

The group announced the letter on the same day that the California Air Resources Board said that the state has met its 2020 emissions cut goal, to reduce climate pollution to 1990 levels (Climatewire, July 12).

Asked about that, Shaye Wolf, CBD’s climate science director, said that “California’s climate policies address only fossil fuel consumption, turning a blind eye to the state’s own dirty fossil fuel production.”

“California must address both sides of the fossil fuel equation to meet the Paris climate goals and protect communities saddled with dangerous drilling operations,” Wolf said in an email.

Brown had not received the letter as of publication. His media office declined comment. Brown has said previously he had a goal of “reducing petroleum usage up to 50 percent — or as close as we can get.”

“But I would say that as long as Californians are going to drive 332 billion miles a year and consume 14 billion gallons of gasoline and 4 billion gallons of diesel — 4 billion gallons of that — we’re going to have to have a plan that is comprehensive,” Brown said in 2016 (Energywire, March 7, 2016). He called for a plan to be “implemented consistently over time and that deals with all the issues and not just a subset.”

“As long as these cars are moving — and as we speak, protesters and non-protesters are burning up gasoline that is being shipped from Iraq, from Russia, from Venezuela and all sorts of other places and coming in on trains,” Brown added at the time. “So whatever we don’t do here, we are going to get from somewhere else until we can get that moratorium on driving, which I haven’t heard proposed yet by anybody.”