To assess the scale of Indigenous resistance against carbon, we begin by calculating the amount of greenhouse gas pollution each project would create. Most of these assessments were conducted by Oil Change International, with certain exceptions drawn from other sources (see Appendix for details).
We examined only the reported climate impact of specific pipelines, tar sands mines, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Adding extraction areas such as the Permian Basin, the Canadian tar sands, and the San Juan Basin of Chaco Canyon would significantly increase the size of our estimate, but would also introduce the potential for double- counting pipelines carrying fossil fuels out of these areas, leading to a more speculative assessment contingent on future development. For scale, we compare the climate impacts of projects facing Indigenous resistance over the last decade to 2019 estimates of total combined greenhouse gas pollution from the United States and Canada — 6.56 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO e).21
Total Indigenous resistance against these projects on Turtle Island — including ongoing struggles, victories against projects never completed, and infrastructure unfortunately in current operation — adds up to 1.8 billion metric tons CO2e, or roughly 28 percent the size of 2019 U.S. and Canadian pollution. Victories in infrastructure fights alone represent the carbon equivalent of 12 percent of annual U.S. and Canadian pollution, or 779 million metric tons CO2e.
Ongoing struggles equal 12 percent of these nations’ annual pollution, or 808 million metric tons CO2e. If these struggles prove successful, this would mean Indigenous resistance will have stopped greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of annual total U.S. and Canadian emissions.
That 24 percent, equaling 1.587 billion metric tons CO2e, is the equivalent pollution of approximately 400 new coal-fired power plants — more than are still operating in the United States and Canadaa — or roughly 345 million passenger vehicles — more than all vehicles on the road in these countries.b Indigenous resistance has also contributed an outsized political impact, helping shift public debate around fossil fuels and Indigenous Rights and avoid lock-in of carbon-intensive projects. These impressive figures also underestimates total Indigenous resistance, since this report focuses on just the largest and most iconic projects.