Our Public Lands Must Be Part of the Climate Change Solution

The millions of acres of public lands that belong to all Americans should be part of the solution to the climate crisis, but mismanagement by the federal government is making them part of the problem. The fossil fuels found on our public lands are significant sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Instead of addressing this problem, the Trump administration is downplaying or outright ignoring it to benefit the oil, gas, and coal industries.

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a dire warningabout the rapidly shrinking window of time remaining if we want any hope of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, such as extreme temperatures, flooding and drought, sea level rise, and species loss and extinction. Yet the data show we’re still going in the wrong direction—a recent report found that America’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion rose by 2.7% in 2018—the second largest annual increase since 2000 after three years of continuous decline. While our emissions are still down overall, we’re not cutting them anywhere near fast enough to meet Paris Agreement climate goals, let alone the more ambitious target of holding global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey shows that federal lands are a big contributor to U.S. emissions. The researchers found that together, coal, oil, and gas produced on federal lands account for approximately 25 percent of the total fossil fuels produced annually in the United States and that, on average, emissions from combustion and extraction of those fossil fuels accounted for 23.7 percent of national carbon dioxide emissions, 7.3 percent methane emissions, and 1.5 percent of nitrous oxide emissions from 2005-2014.

Many of the subsurface minerals (fossil fuels) managed by U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are in the American West—places like Utah, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and New Mexico. These lands are also home to some of our nation’s most spectacular public lands and national monuments, wildlife, culturally significant areas, and stunning landscapes and wilderness.

Natural gas infrastructure in Rifle, CO
Natural gas development in Rifle, Colorado

Source: Alison Kelly, NRDC

Thanks to the Trump administration’s energy dominance agenda, our iconic western landscapes and wildlife face serious threats from fossil fuel leasing and development and the intensive environmental and human health impacts that come with it. Although leasing of federal fossil fuels was a common practice before the 2016 election, this administration is moving with uncommon speed to make western lands available for development. The BLM has offered millions of acres to the fossil fuel industry with minimal public input and little consideration for the climate and other ecological and cultural values.

This is why NRDC and its allies on western conservation and climate have sought relief from the courts—resulting in victories on climate change. For example, a federal judge in Montana found that BLM illegally opened up 80 billion tons of coal and more than 8 million acres for oil and gas development in the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming without considering reasonable alternatives and the resulting impacts on the climate. Similarly, a federal judge in Colorado found that BLM illegally made thousands of acres in Colorado available for oil and gas leasing without considering reasonable alternatives or the impacts of GHGs. And just last month, an appeals court reversed a decision by a federal judge in New Mexico and found that BLM violated the law when it failed to consider the cumulative impacts associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Greater Chaco—a landscape that Native Americans and surrounding communities regard as culturally significant.

Oil and gas production in Greater Chaco
Oil and gas production in Greater Chaco

Source: Western Environmental Law Center

Yet despite repeated court victories for climate, BLM continues to conceal from the American people the true impacts of its leasing decisions. BLM often fails to fully disclose all possible GHG emissions and, even if it does, generally ignores how those emissions could impact the environment. BLM also relies on outdated and incomplete science to assess the impacts of emissions of a particularly potent greenhouse gas—methane. Getting that assessment right is critical because, relative to carbon dioxide, methane has much greater climate impacts in the near term, which is the time period in which the world’s leading experts tell us we need to make rapid and deep reductions in emissions.

BLM owes the American people a complete picture of how its management of our federal public lands damages our climate. And it’s not enough for BLM to just crunch the numbers—agencies also have a legal obligation to tell us what those numbers mean, by assessing how emissions from federal fossil fuels contribute to climate change and explaining it in a way that decisionmakers and members of the public can understand.

Requiring BLM to provide a full picture on how fossil fuel development on our public lands contributes to climate change will help us defend these iconic places from irreparable harm. We must ensure a transition to a secure and prosperous clean energy future that protects our treasured public lands and the climate. Federal public lands should be part of the climate solution—not a significant contributor to the problem.

Trump says an Iranian attack on anything American will be met with ‘obliteration’

KEY POINTS
  • Trump slams Iran on Twitter for issuing a “very ignorant and insulting statement” after the U.S. slapped fresh sanctions on Tehran.
  • Trump says any Iranian attack on Americans would be met with “great and overwhelming force” and “obliteration.”
  • The latest confrontation comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran since the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.
RTS: Trump annoyed White House
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks before signing an executive order aimed at requiring hospitals to be more transparent about prices before charging patients for healthcare services, at the White House in Washington, U.S. June 24, 2019.
Erin Scott | Reuters

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump slammed Iran on Tuesday, saying any Iranian attack on Americans would be met with “great and overwhelming force” and “obliteration.”

Trump’s comments on Twitter came a day after he announced fresh sanctions on the Islamic Republic in the wake of its downing of an unmanned U.S. drone last week.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded to the new sanctions by calling them  “outrageous and idiotic” and saying the White House  was suffering from a “mental illness.”

Trump called that response a “very ignorant and insulting statement.”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Iran leadership doesn’t understand the words “nice” or “compassion,” they never have. Sadly, the thing they do understand is Strength and Power, and the USA is by far the most powerful Military Force in the world, with 1.5 Trillion Dollars invested over the last two years alone..

23.2K people are talking about this

“Iran leadership doesn’t understand the words “nice” or “compassion,” they never have,” Trump wrote. “Sadly, the thing they do understand is Strength and Power, and the USA is by far the most powerful Military Force in the world, with 1.5 Trillion Dollars invested over the last two years alone.”

In another tweet, Trump said that any Iranian attack on Americans would be met with “great and overwhelming force” and “obliteration.”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

….The wonderful Iranian people are suffering, and for no reason at all. Their leadership spends all of its money on Terror, and little on anything else. The U.S. has not forgotten Iran’s use of IED’s & EFP’s (bombs), which killed 2000 Americans, and wounded many more…

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

….Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality. Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration. No more John Kerry & Obama!

26.3K people are talking about this

The latest confrontation comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran since the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement in May 2018.

Last week, U.S. officials said an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down an American military surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran said the aircraft was over its territory. Hours later, Trump said Iran made a “very big mistake ” by shooting down the spy drone.

On Thursday, he approved military strikes on Iran before calling them off, saying the attack would have been disproportionate to Iran’s downing of an unmanned American surveillance drone.

“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die,” Trump wrote. “150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not […] proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world.”

The downing of the drone came a week after the U.S. blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf region. Four tankers were attacked in May. Iran denies involvement.

PA: Oil tanker Gulf of Oman
Fire and smoke billow from the Norwegian owned Front Altair tanker, which was said to have been attacked in the Gulf of Oman.
ISNA | AFP | Getty Images

“Iran is lashing out because the regime wants our successful maximum pressure campaign lifted,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this month without citing specific evidence as to why Tehran was responsible. “No economic sanctions entitle the Islamic Republic to attack innocent civilians, disrupt global oil markets and engage in nuclear blackmail.”

The Pentagon last week released declassified images showing the sustained damage from one of the oil tankers and maintained that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy was responsible.

“Iran is responsible for the attack based on video evidence and the resources and proficiency needed to quickly remove the unexploded limpet mine,” the Pentagon said in a June 17 statement.

What would a US-Iran conflict look like?

Iranian protesters burn a painted US flag at a rally in Tehran on 10 May 2019Image copyrightAFP
Image captionTensions have been escalating between the two countries

A US naval reconnaissance drone was downed by Iranian missiles. President Donald Trump says he ordered – and then aborted – a retaliatory attack, changing his mind 10 minutes before the planned strikes. The sequence of events provided a glimpse of how a conflict might start.

Just suppose the president had not changed his mind. What might have happened? The first US strikes would have been limited in scope, targeting Iranian missile sites or radars, either associated with or similar to the ones that shot down the US drone. They would have been accompanied by a clear diplomatic warning to Iran (as appears to have been delivered over-night on Thursday) that this was indeed a limited attack, solely in retaliation for the loss of the US aircraft.

Mr Trump also reportedly offered an olive branch; according to reports the message to Tehran – which was relayed through Oman – included a further request for talks.

Say the strikes had gone ahead. What would happen then? The next move would be Iran’s. According to one report, it responded last night that it was not interested in talks, and gave a warning of its own: “Any attack against Iran will have regional and international consequences,” one un-named official told the Reuters news agency.

Image captionIranian TV published pictures of what it says was the wreckage of the US drone

So where might such a conflict go and what would it look like? There are many variables to consider, and it is easier to say what will not happen. The Trump administration may be an implacable foe of the Iranian regime but there is not going to be a full-scale ground invasion of Iran to topple the regime. This is not Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Iran is an altogether more complex challenge both militarily and politically. Some in the White House clearly want regime change. They are likely to be disappointed. So rule out a major land war.

Any follow-up Iranian attack on US ships or aircraft would almost certainly be met by an escalation from the Americans. Iranian naval installations, air bases and so on would be hit by aircraft and cruise missiles with the focus, in part, on the Revolutionary Guard Corps whose naval arm appears to have played a prominent role in recent events.

Of course the United States can deliver punishing strikes against Iran’s military infrastructure. But Iran has the means to strike back too. It can use a variety of measures from mines, swarming small boat attacks or submarines to disrupt operations in the confined waters of the Gulf. Oil tankers could be attacked forcing the Americans to take steps to protect them too.

Where the US clearly has an extraordinary advantage is in intelligence gathering and situational awareness. But as the downing of the very sophisticated and hugely expensive drone illustrates, there are significant US vulnerabilities too. All Iran may think it needs to do is to damage or sink a few US warships to make the price of this conflict one that Mr Trump will not want to pay.

Media captionIran ‘made a very big mistake’ – Trump

Any war would be characterised by this “asymmetric” aspect. This term suggests a war of the weak against the strong – two sides with very different goals and very different metrics for success. If a war does break out the US will seek to pummel Iran’s armed forces. It would probably go about it in its time-honoured fashion; initially taking down Iranian air defences and so on. But the Iranians simply need to do enough damage to turn US public opinion against the conflict – to make it appear open-ended and uncertain.

Iran, if under sufficient pressure, might also seek to spread the conflict more broadly, urging its proxies in Iraq, Syria or elsewhere to attack US targets. In extremis it might even try to prevail upon Hezbollah (in concert with its own forces in Syria) to launch rocket attacks on Israel. The goal would be to demonstrate to Washington that what Mr Trump might see as a short-punitive campaign actually risks setting the region on fire.

But why would either country allow themselves to drift into a war? After all, modern conflicts are not “won” in any conventional sense. The Americans should have learnt this lesson all too well from Afghanistan and Iraq. And Iran surely cannot think it can “beat” the United States in any meaningful sense? But the reality is that somewhere between punitive attacks on the one hand and a full-scale conflict on the other, both countries may believe that they can make strategic gains.

The US wants to contain Iran. Severely damaging its military capabilities – especially those of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – would serve this purpose. A serious reversal for Tehran might ultimately impact domestic politics in the country, though a war could equally have the unwanted result of consolidating support for the current regime.

Iran may be pursuing its own high-stakes version of a “regime change” policy too. It may see the current US administration as aggressive, but equally as indecisive and lacking support from its key western allies. By drawing the Americans into a costly and open-ended conflict, the Iranian leadership may believe that they can absorb the pain while damaging President Trump’s chances in the next Presidential race. An Iranian reading of the US political scene may see the Democrats as more likely to return to some kind of nuclear deal and as more willing therefore to relax economic sanctions.

Image captionEconomic sanctions are hitting Hassan Rouhani’s regime hard

The problem for Tehran is that time is not on its side. The economic pressure of sanctions is hitting hard. Iran has relatively few cards to play beyond threatening chaos. Thus it may see escalation as a route out of this crisis. President Trump on the other hand, according to his own tweets, says he is “in no hurry”.

Let’s hope all this discussion is academic. President Trump appeared ready to strike back at Iran after the downing of the drone and then had second thoughts. Many will hope that it is these second thoughts that prevail in the president’s mind over the coming days.

A war with Iran would indeed be costly and unpredictable. It would neither resolve the problem of Iran’s nuclear programme nor of Iran’s growing prominence in the region. That was the indirect outcome of Washington’s last major war in the Middle East – the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Conflicts, it should be remembered, have unintended consequences.

The US blames Iran for the tanker attacks. Here’s what the Navy could do next

KEY POINTS
  • The U.S. blames Iran for the Gulf of Oman attacks on two tankers.
  • It will likely take days, weeks or even months for the military to go through the forensics needed to find out exactly who is behind the attack.
  • But “Iran’s ships are very exposed. I’d expect the U.S. would be able to sink Iran’s navy in about two days,” one defense expert tells CNBC.

VIDEO04:43
Five experts on Iran-US relations after tanker attacks

The war of words between the U.S. and Iran took a dangerous turn after two ships were attacked in the Gulf of Oman. One of the tankers was operated by a Japanese company.

They were hit Thursday, the same day Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rhouhani.

The Trump administration put the blame squarely on Iran.

“It was not an accident that the Japanese tanker was attacked,” said Alireza Nader, who heads the New Iran Foundation, a Washington-based think tank that opposes the Islamic Republic. “This was a very blunt warning. Iran is saying to the world we are able to disrupt the world’s oil markets and we’re going to do it.”

But not everyone is convinced. “You have to fully understand what happened before you start shooting” said Mark Cancian, a defense expert with Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former colonel in the Marines with decades of operational knowledge of naval combat.

Reusable: USS George H. W. Bush aircraft carrier
File photo of the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier, which is currently enroute to Persian Gulf.
Source: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Billy Ho | Flickr

“The Department of Defense will be reluctant to retaliate until they are certain what happened and who fired on whom, and why,” he said.

The U.S. has been beefing up naval and air power, capable of striking Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf over the last month after the White House said it had information about possible future attacks against American interests. The Pentagon would not say Thursday whether there were plans to speed the buildup.

Nader and Cancian believe it’s possible Iranian-funded Houthi rebels, who are mired in a civil war in Yemen, may be to blame. If that’s the case, “the U.S. will not want to get involved in a shooting war over Yemen,” Cancian said.

It will likely take days, weeks or even months for the military to go through the forensics needed to find out exactly who is behind the attack. But if it is determined to be Iran, Cancian believes the U.S. forces in the area will make quick work of Iran’s navy. “The U.S. has assets designed to take on Russia and China. Iran’s ships are very exposed. I’d expect the U.S. would be able to sink Iran’s navy in about two days.”

VIDEO02:03
Two tankers attacked in Gulf of Oman

There are, however, problems for military planners. Iran has invested heavily in a fleet of small speed boats that are capable of overwhelming bigger U.S. ships. Military planners call this a “first-minute threat.”

“Once the shooting starts,” said Cancian, “those smaller boats will be the first target of the U.S. Navy.”

Iran, according to Nader, is under increasing pressure due to a new wave of American sanctions. “The regime is desperate because the economy is being choked off,” he said. “Khamenei and Iranian officials did not realize how hard sanctions would hurt oil, petrochemicals, steel and minerals, the core of Iran’s economy.”

GP: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei 190422
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during his meeting with students in Tehran, Iran on October 18, 2017.
Iranian Leader’s Press Office – Handout | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

This is the second time in a month Iran is being blamed for attacking international shipping. Last month, four ships were hit by limpet mines off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Limpet mines are magnetic and are often attached to a ship by an underwater attack team.

While it’s too early to tell, there is speculation similar mines may have been used in this latest attack, after being attached to the tankers while docked.

The Method in Iran’s Oil Tanker Madness

Squint hard enough, and you can see the outlines of a strategy that ends in negotiations.

A grab from video released by the US Central Command.
A grab from video released by the US Central Command.

Photographer: CENTCOM/AFP/Getty Images

Suspicion is now hardening that Iran was behind the attack on the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday morning. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has fingered the Islamic Republic, and American officials have released footage of what purports to be an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps speedboat alongside one of the ships. The video shows men apparently removing an unexploded limpet mine from the hull of the vessel.

The implication is that the perpetrators were removing evidence of their guilt.

Pompeo Blames Iran for Attacks on Oil Tankers

The U.S. also blamed Iran for attacks on vessels in the port of Fujairah last month. An investigation by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Norway pinned them, coyly, on a “state actor,” without feeling the need to name the Islamic Republic. Iran denied responsibility, with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif descending to bazaar-level conspiracy theories involving a false-flag operation by Israel’s Mossad.

If you’re not inclined to believe the Trump administration – and such skepticism is entirely reasonable – most detectives would still tell you that the most obvious culprit is usually responsible for the crime.

To those seeking logic behind the attacks, though, it may be hard to see why Iran would do this – but that assumes that the regime in Tehran is a rational actor.

The Gulf of Oman attacks are especially hard to explain: targeting Japanese shipping on the very day that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on a well-publicized peace mission would seem extraordinarily counterproductive, even for a regime with an almost fanatical commitment to self-harm.

But Khamenei made very clear his contempt for Abe’s attempt to mediate between the Iranian regime and the White House. He dismissed the offer and took to Twitter afterwards to throw his diplomatic guest under the bus. The most charitable view of this humiliation is that the Ayatollah regarded the prime minister as a proxy for Donald Trump – which, in a sense, he was.

So it’s quite possible to see why Iran would want to attack the tankers, endangering lives as well as the world’s busiest oil route.

The first thing to note is that the regime has repeatedly said that it would do exactly that, using the old if-not-us-then-nobody argument. Since the U.S.’s tightening of sanctions has squeezed Iranian oil exports, nobody else’s should be allowed to pass through waters within reach of the IRGC.

The Iranians know that these threats, if repeated, can lose their power if not followed with action. The attacks on the tankers, then, can be explained as a demonstration that Khamenei’s attack dogs have some teeth.

There is another rationale. If Iran does eventually agree to negotiate with the U.S., it will want to bring some bargaining chips to the table – something it can exchange for the removal of sanctions. In the negotiations over the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran was able to offer the suspension of its nuclear program. It doesn’t have that particular chip now, although Tehran has recently threatened to crank up the centrifuges again.

Meanwhile, the regime may have calculated that the only way to secure some kind of negotiating position is blackmail: End the sanctions, or we take out some more tankers, and send oil prices surging.

In this scenario, the Gulf of Oman attacks offer a peculiar form of optimism: If you squint just enough, you can see that the Iranians are moving toward negotiations. It is a high-risk strategy, more likely to fail than succeed. But that has been the Islamic Republic’s stock-in-trade for 40 years, and we shouldn’t expect good sense to break out in Tehran soon.

Gulf of Oman tanker attacks: Everything you need to know

00:0000:0000:00

The apparent attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday represents a dramatic escalation in regional and international tensions. Coming just one month and one day after an attack on four other oil tankers in the same area, oil prices have spiked upward in fear of what might happen next.

What’s going on here? Blame Iran.

The United Arab Emirates and Saudis might want a United States showdown with Iran but they would not risk jeopardizing the U.S. relationship by conducting a false flag attack. Moreover, the damage to the two tankers in this latest incident is suggestive of a torpedo attack: video shows at least one of the tankers on fire with waterline damage amidships. Iran has an array of means for such an attack, including attack submarines of various sizes, disguised fishing and passenger boats, and military fast boats.

Watch Full Screen to Skip Ads

Regardless, this attack fits comfortably with the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps penchant for thinly deniable action. Suffering deep financial losses due to escalating U.S. sanctions, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps wants to pressure the international community into restraining the Trump administration’s maximum pressure strategy. Iran will hope that this attack is sufficiently calibrated to avoid clear evidence of its culpability and thus avoid U.S. retaliation. In that, it is designed as a halfway measure between doing nothing and inviting U.S. retaliation by overtly attempting to shut down the Strait of Hormuz.

But Iran’s escalation should not be seen solely through the prism of this attack. Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has made veiled but apparent threats of Iranian resistance to the Trump administration’s pressure. And an Iranian-enabled missile attack on Saudi Arabia this week illustrates that the Revolutionary Guards is escalating. This sits squarely within Iran’s theocratic penchant for resistance against great odds (look up the Battle of Karbala).

The question is how the U.S. and its allies should respond.

I suspect what we will now see is a significantly increased naval presence by the U.S. and its allies to protect transit routes. Iranian forces and fishing vessels (due to the threat of disguised attacks) will likely be warned to keep distance from other vessels or face being sunk. We should expect them to test that warning, and for allied vessels to fire on them in response. Hopefully they will get the message and go back to port.

In terms of naval air-power, the U.S. currently has only an amphibious ready group in the area, so expect one of the carriers now in the Atlantic to be redeployed back to the Gulf.

The Guardian view on the US and Iran: on a collision course

The attack on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman is an ominous development. Can the escalation be halted?
Smoke billowing from Norwegian-owned Front Altair tanker, said to have been attacked in the waters of the Gulf of Oman
 Smoke billowing from Norwegian-owned Front Altair tanker, said to have been attacked in the waters of the Gulf of Oman. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Before the long plume of black smoke from the stricken oil tankerFront Altair had cleared on Thursday, one thing was clear: the risks of a war in the region are real and rising fast. US officials briefed that it was “highly likely” Iran had attacked the Norwegian vessel and another tanker in the Gulf of Oman, close to the strait of Hormuz – a chokepoint for the global oil and gas trade. They had already blamed Tehran for mine attacks on other oil ships last month.

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, was quick to tweet that “suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning”, pointing out that vessels with cargo for Japan were attacked as the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, met the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a trip intended to help ease US-Iran tensions.

In reality, the question of who is actually responsible is subsumed by two more: who is held responsible, and who created the context for these attacks, which would have been unthinkable a year ago but now seem disturbing rather than surprising. Iran has plenty to answer for in the region, most of all perhaps in Syria. But it is the US that walked away from an international nuclear deal by which Iran was abiding, motivated largely it seems by Donald Trump’s allergy to any success by his predecessor. With ultra-hawk John Bolton at the helm, and egged on by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, the US has pursued “maximum pressure”, strangling Iran’s economy and sending other threatening signals even as it says it would negotiate. The only real restraint on the president seems to be his promise to voters to save them from expensive Middle Eastern wars, and perhaps his desire to prove he is a better dealmaker than Barack Obama.

Yet as the jump in global oil prices following the attacks shows, Iran may not be the only one to suffer from the tensions. The US decision to disown the Iran nuclear deal and undermine its remnants strengthened hardliners in Iran and undermined moderates. Mr Zarif warned on Tuesday that the US “cannot expect to stay safe” after launching an economic war against Tehran. The supreme leader’s spate of tweets to Mr Abe sent a far more uncompromising message. Mr Trump is not a person deserving of an exchange of messages; the US could not stop Iran producing nuclear weapons; the US cannot be trusted.

China, focusing on its own troubles with the US, has not filled the economic gap as Tehran hoped. Iran is growing increasingly frustrated despite Europe’s efforts to shore up the nuclear deal. Though the UK, France and Germany have created the Instex mechanism to enable trading, it looks more like a political statement than an effective mechanism at present. Iran wants a serious injection of seed funding, which might persuade it to pause on its current path of escalation.

In the US, Congress has limited powers to constrain the administration, but can and should at least use its ability to increase and highlight the political costs of America’s current course. It has finally shown its willingness to take a stand over the war in Yemen.

It seems extremely unlikely that Tehran has any hubristic inclination to confront the US directly. Yet at present there is no sign that either side is willing to halt the escalation. Last month, after the first tanker attacks, the British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, warned of the risk of a conflict happening “by accident”. An attack that causes mass fatalities, or any American death, could send this precarious situation over the edge. The blaze on Front Altair could yet turn out to presage a wider conflagration in the region, the devastating consequences of which could not be confined to Iran.

Beto: We only have ’10 years’ left to address climate change

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke sounded the alarms on Monday, saying that civilization has only “ten years” left to address climate change.

The former Texas congressman unveiled the first major policy proposal of his candidacy, which is a climate change initiative that would cost $5 trillion in over 10 years in hopes of reaching zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Appearing on MSNBC, O’Rourke promoted his proposal but was asked about his prior support from the oil and gas industry, and whether the relationship would be a problem going forward.

“Do you see the oil and gas industry as an opponent in that? Won’t you have to declare yourself in opposition to their interests?” MSNBC host Chris Hayes asked.

O’Rourke responded “yes,” but said he is optimistic that the industry will take part in his initiative.

“We know that certain oil and gas corporations have been fighting public policy on this issue, have been hiding their own science and research at the expense of our climate and human life,” O’Rourke told Hayes. “So whenever those two things come in contrast or in opposition, I’m always going to choose the people of this country.”

“Having said that, I want to make sure those who work in the oil and gas industry, those who work in the fossil fuel industry are brought along as partners to make sure that we make this transition in the ten years we have left to us as the science and scientists tell us to make the kind of bold change that we need,” the former congressman continued.

GET THE FOX NEWS APP

“We cannot afford to alienate a significant part of this country and we cannot do this by half measure or by only half of us. It can’t be Democrats versus Republicans, big cities versus small towns, we all have a shared interest in a cleaner future for this country. So I’m going to work with, listen to everyone anytime, anywhere to make sure that we advance this agenda and get to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

Citing climate change, U.S. judge blocks oil and gas drilling in large swath of Wyoming

The lawsuit challenged leases issued in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado in 2015 and 2016, during President Barack Obama’s administration.
Image: Climate Change Impact, Oil, Gas

Trinidad Drilling rigs are seen off of Way Highway 59 outside of Douglas, Wyo on March 5, 2013. A judge has blocked oil and gas drilling on almost 500 square miles in Wyoming and says the government must consider cumulative climate change impacts of leasing public lands across the U.S. for energy development. Leah Millis / The Casper Star-Tribune via AP file

By Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — A judge blocked oil and gas drilling across almost 500 square miles in Wyoming and said the U.S. government must consider climate change impacts more broadly as it leases huge swaths of public land for energy exploration.

The order marks the latest in a string of court rulings over the past decade — including one last month in Montana — that have faulted the U.S. for inadequate consideration of greenhouse gas emissions when approving oil, gas and coal projects on federal land.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras in Washington appeared to go a step further than other judges in his order issued late Tuesday.

Previous rulings focused on individual lease sales or permits. But Contreras said that when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management auctions public lands for oil and gas leasing, officials must consider emissions from past, present and foreseeable future oil and gas leases nationwide.

“Given the national, cumulative nature of climate change, considering each individual drilling project in a vacuum deprives the agency and the public of the context necessary to evaluate oil and gas drilling on federal land,” Contreras wrote.

The ruling coincides with an aggressive push by President Donald Trump’s administration to open more public lands to energy development.

It came in a lawsuit that challenged leases issued in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado in 2015 and 2016, during President Barack Obama’s administration.

Only the leases in Wyoming were immediately addressed in Contreras’ ruling. It blocks federal officials from issuing drilling permits until they conduct a new environmental review looking more closely at greenhouse gas emissions.

The case was brought by two advocacy groups, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

WildEarth Guardians climate program director Jeremy Nichols predicted the ruling would have much bigger implications than a halt to drilling in some areas of Wyoming, assuming the government does what Contreras has asked.

“This is the Holy Grail ruling we’ve been after, especially with oil and gas,” Nichols said. “It calls into question the legality of oil and gas leasing that’s happening everywhere.”

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon criticized the ruling, saying carbon emissions shouldn’t be reduced at the expense of workers who provide reliable and affordable energy.

“Bringing our country to its knees is not the way to thwart climate change. We need solutions not grandstanding,” said Gordon, a Republican.

Federal officials were reviewing the court ruling to determine its implications and had no further comment, BLM spokeswoman Kristen Lenhardt said.

Emissions from extracting and burning fossil fuels from federal land generates the equivalent of 1.4 billion tons annually of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, according to a November report from the U.S. Geological Survey . That’s equivalent to almost one-quarter of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.

Companies paid more than $6.5 billion to produce oil, gas and coal from federal lands and waters in 2017, according to the most recent government figures. The money is split between the federal government and states where the extraction occurs.

Kathleen Sgamma with the Western Energy Alliance, which lobbies on behalf of the oil industry, said the BLM already was analyzing emissions appropriately under rules set up during the Obama administration.

Following previous court rulings over climate change, the BLM has gone back and reconsidered the effects of fossil fuels and then re-affirmed its approvals of projects.

That could happen again in this case, with further studies done before drilling is allowed to proceed, said Harry Weiss, an environmental lawyer based in Philadelphia whose clients have included oil and gas companies.

“This decision should not be interpreted as a ban on leasing activities,” Weiss said. “The court is not ruling on whether it’s thumbs up or thumbs down. The court is simply grading how the administration did analyzing the issues.”

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/citing-climate-change-u-s-judge-blocks-oil-gas-drilling-n985646

BP lobbied Trump administration to roll back key Obama era climate rules

 

https://www.carbonbrief.org/daily-brief/bp-lobbied-trump-administration-to-roll-back-key-obama-era-climate-rules

An investigation by Unearthed has revealed that the oil and gas major BP successfully lobbied the Trump administration to roll back key climate regulations preventing methane emissions, despite claiming publicly to support the Paris Agreement. Both directly and through influential trade associations, BP first opposed and then helped reverse rules that would have restricted the deliberate venting and flaring of methane on federal lands, and also that would have required more frequent equipment inspections to detect methane leaks. At least 1.7m tonnes of methane could be released into the atmosphere over the next seven years as a result of the rollbacks, says Unearthed, equivalent to 58m tonnes of CO2. In public, BP “has portrayed itself as an energy major at the forefront of a global campaign to reduce methane emissions from operations to combat climate change”, notes the Financial Times. While not responding directly to Unearthed, a BP spokesperson tells the FT that the company has “consistently advocated for regulation of methane emissions by one federal agency — the Environmental Protection Agency — rather than an inefficient patchwork of different federal or state agencies”. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that BP is set to launch a new “very low sulphur fuel oil” ahead of a ban on more polluting fuels for the shipping industry that comes into force next year.

In other US news, Reuters reports that the White House is proposing eliminating a tax credit worth up to $7,500 (~£5,700) on the purchase of new electric vehicles. In its proposed “budget for a better America”, the Office of Management and Budget says the move would save the US government $2.5bn over a decade. The 2020 budget also proposes a 31% cut for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), reports the Hill, a 13% cut for the National Science Foundation and a 2.3% cut for Nasa, reports the Washington Post. The budget aims to cut domestic spending by 5% overall, notes another piece in the Hill. In a statement, EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler says: “This common sense budget proposal would support the agency as it continues to work with states, tribes and local governments to protect human health and the environment.” The proposed budget is “highly unlikely to become law”, says Reuters, after it was “immediately panned by Democrats”