Much of world's fossil fuel reserve must stay buried to prevent climate change, study says | Environment | The Guardian
It shows trillions of dollars of known and extractable coal, oil and gas, including most Canadian tar sands, all Arctic oil and gas and much potential shale gas, cannot be exploited if the global temperature rise is to be kept under the 2C safety limit agreed by the world’s nations.
Currently, the world is heading for a catastrophic 5C of warming and the deadline to seal a global climate deal comes in December at a crunch UN summit in Paris.
“We’ve now got tangible figures of the quantities and locations of fossil fuels that should remain unused in trying to keep within the 2C temperature limit,” said Christophe McGlade, at University College
London (UCL), and who led the new research published in the journal Nature. The work, using detailed data and well-established economic models, assumed cost effective climate policies would use the cheapest fossil fuels first, with more expensive fuels priced out of a world in which carbon emissions were strictly limited. For example, the model predicts that significant cheap-to-produce conventional oil would be burned butthat the carbon limit would be reached before more expensive tar sands
oil could be used.
The new analysis calls into question the gigantic sums of private and government investment
being ploughed into exploration for new fossil fuel reserves, according
to UCL’s Professor Paul Ekins, who conducted the research with McGlade.
“In 2013, fossil fuel companies spent some $670bn (£443bn) on exploring
for new oil and gas resources. One might ask why they are doing this
when there is more in the ground than we can afford to burn,” he said.
“The investors in those companies might feel that money is better
spent either developing low-carbon energy sources or being returned to
investors as dividends,” said Ekins.
“One lesson of this work is unmistakably obvious: when you’re in a hole, stop digging,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org
which is campaigning to get investors to dump their fossil fuel stocks.
“These numbers show that unconventional and ‘extreme’ fossil fuel –
Canada’s tar sands, for instance – simply have to stay in the ground.”
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