President Should Welcome Pope With Act Of Climate Penance: Ending Fossil Fuel Leases On Public Lands

Los Angeles, September 22

Dr. Jill Stein called today for President Obama to welcome Pope Francis to the United State by announcing that he was halting the leasing of public lands to extract oil and gas.

Stein also said that the US and China should mutually agree to impose a carbon tax before the Paris climate change summit in December.

“The President should welcome the Pope with an act of climate penance. Stopping leases for fossil fuels on public lands is the single biggest step a President could take to reduce climate change without the need for Congressional approval. He should also finally say no to the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Stein, who is seeking to run again as the Green Party nominee for President.

Stein said that she agreed with the Pope that effective action on climate change must also include addressing income inequality and forms of discrimination.

“The Pope is right when he points out that we need system change not climate change,” said Stein.

To avoid catastrophic climate change, scientists estimate that we have to ensure that 80% of the fossil fuels we already have are never burnt. Yet fossil fuel companies are spending $670 billion a year looking for new fossil fuel sources. And the G20 countries pay $88 billion to subsidize this exploration – including $5.1 billion from the US government.

A recent report found that if we burn all our existing fossil fuels, the sea rise would eventually be 200 feet (the rise would be about a foot per decade). Such a rise would put most of Florida, much of Louisiana and Texas, the entire East Coast of the United States, large parts of Britain, much of the European Plain, and huge parts of coastal Asia under water. Another report by Dr. James Hansen estimates that sea levels will raise by 10 feet in 50 years.

“We need to say yes to the sun, wind and tides, and no to fossil fuels, including natural gas. One step that I would take as President would be to ask China to join me in announcing a major joint carbon tax. It is time to make the polluters pay,” added Stein.

Over the past decade, the burning of fossil fuels from federal leasing has resulted in nearly a quarter of all U.S. energy-related emissions. Last week the Obama administration announced it would open nearly 40 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to new oil and gas drilling leases, one month after it approved a permit for Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Arctic.

A US/China carbon tax would force the rest of the world to comply since the size of combined US/China markets and international trade would force global compliance. The carbon tax would be a tariff for countries exporting to a carbon tax country to the degree they don’t have a comparable carbon tax.  It would also compliment any greenhouse gas reduction targets, if any, agreed to in Paris.

Of the 67 million acres currently leased to the fossil fuel industry, the Obama administration has approved nearly 15 million acres of public land and 21 million acres of ocean for drilling in the past seven years.

The International Monetary Fund recently estimated that the world’s governments provide $5.3 trillion in annual subsidies to oil, gas and coal companies. Most of this due to the failure to charge polluters for the damage they cause by burning fossil fuels. Eliminating global energy subsidies could reduce deaths related to fossil-fuel emissions by over 50 percent and fossil-fuel related carbon emissions by over 20 percent.  An estimated 50,000 Americans die annually from air pollution.

Many economists believe that a carbon tax would be the single most effective economic step to drive down greenhouse gas emissions.

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