Public lands generate about 4.5 times more atmospheric carbon than they are currently able to absorb, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress. In short, oil and gas drilling is outpacing the capacity of our forests and grasslands to capture the carbon that is being emitted.
Every year, public lands are used for the extraction of:
- 42.1 percent of our nation’s coal
- 26.2 percent of its oil
- 17.8 percent of its natural gas
America’s public lands should fulfill the opposite purpose by providing landscapes that naturally absorb and store carbon. But with increasing development, carbon emissions from public lands more than quadruple the amount that these lands are capable of absorbing, according to the report.
Unfortunately, public lands are also “‘ground zero’ for the effects of a warming world: glaciers are disappearing from Glacier National Park, polar bears are losing their Arctic habitat and water supplies in the Colorado River are diminishing,” says the report.
Center for American Progress’ assessment that a carbon-emissions reduction plan for public lands should be a crucial component of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
While America’s prized lands may no longer be able to balance our needs, our policies need to.
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