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Obama’s Climate Legacy for Our Lands: Win-Win v. Double Whammy

Climate disruption serves up a double whammy when it comes to our public lands and America’s special places - though whammy is way too casual of word to describe the serious threats to our national parks, wilderness areas and endangered species from climate change.

Climate disruption will damage our wild places, and threaten native and iconic plants and animals - from forests and grasslands to sage grouse and polar bears – with extinction.  Increased wild fire, coastal flooding and other symptoms and signs of climate change would eliminate invaluable ecosystem services, putting communities and Americans around the country at risk.

The second whammy is caused by the drilling and mining of dirty fuels – in particular oil, gas and coal – that cause global climate change on public lands and off our coasts.  Banning new drilling and mining - including oil and gas, oil shale, tar sands, coal  and other dirty fuels - on our public lands and outer continental shelf would protect iconic places like the Arctic Refuge and National Parks AND keep these dirty fuels in the ground.

Last year, President Obama approved new fuel efficiency standards that represent the biggest single step taken by any President to cut climate-disrupting carbon pollution. But if we were to see all of the carbon in the Arctic burned, we would wipe out all the progress two times over. Keeping that oil and gas in the ground is better than burning it in our cars and pumping it into our air – and in our environment.  

Instead of being a double whammy to our public lands, fighting climate disruption would be a win – win for the Obama Administration – and America’s special places.   Using fewer fossil fuels would lessen the need to drill and mine our coasts and the America’s Arctic, and not burning dirty fuels would help fight climate disruption -- disruption that would damage landscapes, species, and wilderness areas.

And “win-win” sounds better than “double whammy,” too.

---Athan ManuelDirector, Sierra Club Lands Protection Program


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