The Interior Department Scrubs Climate Change From Its Strategic Plan

In the next five years, millions of acres of America’s public lands and waters, including some national monuments and relatively pristine coastal regions, could be auctioned off for oil and gas development, with little thought for environmental consequences.

That’s according to a leaked draft, obtained by The Nation, of the Department of the Interior’s strategic vision: It states that the DOI is committed to achieving “American energy dominance” through the exploitation of “vast amounts” of untapped energy reserves on public lands. Alarmingly, the policy blueprint—a 50-page document—does not once mention climate change or climate science.

That’s a clear departure from current policy: The previous plan, covering 2014–18, referred to climate change 46 times and explicitly stated that the department was committed to improving resilience in those communities most directly affected by global warming.

Understanding the threat of climate change had been an integral part of the Interior Department’s mission, said Elizabeth Klein, who served as associate deputy secretary at Interior from 2012 to 2017 and was involved in drafting the earlier strategic plan.

That document sought to address a number of the risks associated with climate change, including drought, sea-level rise, and severe flooding. One section referred specifically to the need for more research on erosion along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, which are particularly vulnerable to hurricanes.

While disregarding climate change, the 2018–2022 strategic plan places a premium on facilitating oil and gas development. It calls for speeding up the processing of parcels nominated for oil and gas leasing on public lands.

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