June 17, MongaBay

Global emissions of carbon dioxide reached 36.8 billion metric tons in 2019, and were on track for the highest levels ever in 2020. But then the coronavirus hit, and the resulting economic slowdown caused carbon emissions to fall by 7 percent. Now that the economy is beginning to hum again, oil consumption is rebounding and is projected to surge past pre-pandemic levels.

All of this shows how difficult it will be to break our addiction to fossil fuels.

Of course, we know the Biden administration has an ambitious $2 trillion climate plan to try to replace fossil fuels with investments in renewable energy, electric vehicles and charging stations, and other infrastructure. But while renewable energy has the potential to reduce our dependence on oil, gas, and coal, at scale it poses its own environmental threats.

Fossil fuel extraction and processing is harmful, but renewable energy technologies impact more land to produce a similar amount of energy. For example, the clean energy plan promoted by Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, a prominent advocate for 100% renewable power in California, would necessitate more than 4,000 square miles of land dedicated to the installation of wind turbines — that is an area four times the size of Yosemite National Park.

In fact, conflicts over land use for renewable energy are already common and contentious; on one side, conservationists and indigenous communities, and on the other side, renewable energy developers and mining companies.

This month in Nevada, 4.6 square miles of critical habitat for Mojave Desert tortoises is being bulldozed for the Yellow Pine solar energy project. In the north of the state, in Thacker Pass, Nevada, a planned open-pit mine for lithium — essential for the batteries used to operate electric cars and to store energy produced by wind and solar projects — is at the center of a massive controversy. Permitting was “fast tracked” under the Trump Administration, and the mine is facing determined opposition from Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone tribe, ranchers, and environmentalists – including myself – who are against the potential damage to sacred and cultural sites, harm to wildlife and habitat, and toxification of air and water.

Read the rest at MongaBay.