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Scientists Pen Open Letter To US Government To End Coal Leasing On Public Lands

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A group of 67 scientists have penned an open letter to the US Department of the Interior calling on the government to end coal leasing on public lands in an effort to protect the climate, public health, and biodiversity.

“We are scientists writing to urge the Department of the Interior to take meaningful action to fight climate change by ending federal coal leasing, extraction, and burning,” the scientists wrote, joining a long-standing effort to put an end to call coal leasing of public lands. US President Barack Obama earlier this year halted all new coal leasing while the Department of the Interior launched a comprehensive review of the federal coal program, but supporters of the move were quick to point out that all coal leasing should be banned on public land.

“This is a historic decision that greatly improves the world’s chances of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change and has burnished President Obama’s climate legacy,” said Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica at the time.

While, across the aisle, Karen Harbert, CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, said in a statement that, “At this point, it is obvious that the President and his administration won’t be satisfied until coal is completely eradicated from our energy mix.”

It was gratifying to see that Karen Harbert was catching on.

Published on Wednesday, the call for a cessation of all coal leasing on public lands received its biggest boost, with 67 prominent scientists — including James Hansen, Ken Calderia, Mark Jacobson, Michael Oppenheimer, Susan Solomon, Stuart Pimm, and many others — calling on US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, as well as Neil Kornze and Mitchel Leverette of the US Bureau of Land Management, to end coal leasing, arguing that the “vast majority of known coal in the United States must stay in the ground if the federal coal program is to be consistent with national climate objectives and be protective of public health, welfare, and biodiversity.”

“According to a large body of scientific research, holding temperature rise to “well below 2°C” requires that the vast majority of global and US fossil fuels stay in the ground,” the authors argued, nothing that the current global fossil fuel reserves would exceed the allowable carbon budget for a 2°C limit “several times over.”

“Coal mining on our public lands is incompatible with our national commitment to protect human health and well-being, protect the natural environment, and avoid dangerous interference in the climate system,” added Dr. Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Science. “Nearly every country in the world, including the United States, has made commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is no time to be expanding production of coal, which is the dirtiest of conventional fossil fuels. Every new coal project causes additional damage to human health and adds to effectively irreversible global climate damage.”

“Top climate scientists are speaking out about the need to end public coal leasing once and for all, and President Obama would be wise to heed their warning,” said Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It makes no sense for the federal government to undermine the climate fight by letting companies dig up more of this incredibly polluting fossil fuel from our public lands.”

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