This is what would happen if we stopped offshore drilling expansion

Halting offshore drilling expansion, along with the phase-down of existing production of fossil fuels as clean energy is adopted, would deliver up to 13% of the annual emission reductions needed to prevent the worst effects of the climate crisis, according to new analysis from ocean conservation nonprofit Oceana.

Nearly 30% of all oil and gas production currently comes from offshore drilling, and that generates emissions throughout the entire process – from extraction to refining and transporting – not just from the burning of the fuel itself.

By stopping offshore drilling expansion and promoting clean energy policies that would push a phase-down of fossil fuel production levels worldwide, Oceana found that emissions could be reduced by 6.3 billion metric tons a year by 2050.

That’s equivalent to the annual emissions saved by removing 1.4 billion cars from the road. 

Only 10 countries – Saudi Arabia, Norway, Qatar, Iran, Brazil, the United States, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and Angola – produce around 64% of all offshore oil and gas. That would be the best place to start. If those countries pledged to stop offshore drilling, it would make a huge impact.   

Dr. Kathryn Matthews, chief scientist at Oceana, said:

Stopping the expansion of offshore drilling has the potential to reduce emissions more than any other ocean-based solution.

It’s irrefutable that the climate crisis is here, now, affecting all of us through more frequent and intense hurricanes, floods, wildfires, droughts, and heat waves. This report makes it clear that ocean solutions are climate solutions. If we’re serious about preventing catastrophic climate change, our ocean is a great place to start.

Offshore drilling is also a major cause of ocean pollution. It greatly harms marine life, coastal ecosystems, and economies with long-lasting effects, not to mention oil spills.

Photo: “Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig” by Katie Haugland Bowen is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.