Fighting climate change

Mason Cummings, TWS

Public lands can be part of the climate change solution

Our public land policies contribute substantially to the climate change problem. Oil, gas and coal extracted from lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies contribute a large piece of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions—20 percent to be exact. 

The U.S. government has a long history of giving away our public lands to the fossil fuel industry at below market rates. Over 40 percent of coal, 26 percent of oil, and 23 percent of gas developed in the U.S. from 2007 to 2017 came from public lands. The result has been a disaster for our climate. Unfortunately, the government does not measure and report emissions, or consider the impact this pollution has on our lives. 

If the government doesn’t start curtailing greenhouse gas emissions from public lands, the results could be catastrophic for our environment and vulnerable populations around the world. Tracking emissions is the first step to fixing the problem. In the absence of transparency by the government, The Wilderness Society has started to track and calculate emissions data on our own. We are using this information to advocate for policies that will reduce the climate consequences of energy development.

Why this issue matters

By decreasing fossil energy development on public lands and reducing and accounting for the cost of emissions, we can ensure that our public lands contribute less to pollution and climate change.

20% of total U.S. climate emissions
That's how much the development of oil, gas and coal on public lands contributes to U.S. emissions.
5th in the world
If U.S. public lands were their own country, they would rank 5th in the world for greenhouse gas emissions, just behind Russia.
86 times more potent
Methane is 86 times more potent than CO2 over the short-term. Reducing methane emissions on public lands is key to battling our changing climate.

What we're doing

  1. Pushing for tracking and reductions of emissions

    We urge the Interior Department to track and reduce climate emissions from public lands energy development. In lieu of the government addressing this problem, we are sharing data on emissions and impacts.

  2. Helping communities impacted by climate change

    We support communities on the frontlines of climate change by providing resources, technical knowledge, and advocating for policies that protect their way of life and our shared air, land and water.

  3. Addressing methane pollution from public lands

    We work on ways to reduce methane pollution from oil and gas operations on public lands, especially through federal and state rules.