SACRAMENTO, Calif. July 12, 2018 — Twenty-six prominent climate and environmental scientists sent a letter to California Gov. Jerry Brown today calling for a halt to new oil and gas projects and a fair plan to phase out all fossil fuel extraction in the state.
Today’s letter warns that these actions are urgently necessary to meet the Paris climate targets and protect millions of Californians living near oil and gas wells. Limiting global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and striving for below 1.5 degrees, in line with the Paris agreement, will be the focus of a global climate summit convened by Brown in September.
“The science shows that ending the approval of new fossil fuel projects is absolutely necessary to meet the Paris climate goals,” said Dr. Aradhna Tripati, a professor in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles, who signed the letter. “We urge Governor Brown to show science-based climate leadership and protect California communities by addressing California’s own dirty oil extraction.”
California is one of the nation’s top oil-producing states, extracting among the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive crude in the world. Three-quarters of the oil produced in California is as at least as carbon-intensive as Canada’s tar sands crude. Yet Brown’s regulators have issued more than 20,000 permits for new oil and gas wells since Brown took office in 2011.
“The accumulation of past emissions is already causing impacts in California, across the U.S., and around the world,” said Dr. Michael MacCracken, chief scientist for climate change programs at the Climate Institute in Washington, D.C., and former climate and air-quality researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “The emissions from every barrel of California’s oil that is burned contribute to the increasing pace of sea-level rise and amount of wildfire in California — keeping the oil underground is by far the most effective and most cost-effective policy.”
The letter also points to scientific research showing that living near oil and gas wells is associated with a higher risk of cancer, respiratory diseases and reproductive problems. In California 8,500 active oil and gas wells are within 2,500 feet of homes, schools and hospitals; these wells are disproportionately located in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.
Ending permitting for new wells, combined with the phaseout of those 8,500 wells, would protect communities and avoid the emission of an estimated 425 million metric tons of carbon dioxide between 2019 and 2030. This figure is similar to California’s economy-wide emissions in 2015.
These scientists join a growing chorus urging Gov. Brown to confront California’s oil and gas production prior to hosting the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this September.
On April 11 a diverse array of environmental, public-health, faith, labor and community groups launched the Brown’s Last Chance campaign to demand that Gov. Brown halt new oil and gas extraction and devise a just transition plan to phase it out entirely. To date more than 800 organizations have signed on.
On June 26 more than 100 local elected officials across California sent a letter to Gov. Brown echoing the groups’ call for a statewide plan to phase out fossil fuel production.
“As a scientist and Californian, I stand with communities harmed by oil extraction in demanding an end to the drilling free-for-all,” said Dr. Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If the governor wants to put our state on the road to a clean energy future before leaving office, he needs to stop letting the oil industry take the wheel.”