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Study: World Must Keep Most Fossil Fuels In The Ground To Achieve Climate Goals

Almost 60 percent of global crude oil and fossil methane gas reserves, plus 90 percent of coal reserves, should be kept in the ground if the world has a chance to meet the target to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, a new peer-reviewed study showed.

Researchers led by environmental and energy economist Dan Welsby at University College London have estimated that oil and gas production must decline globally by 3 percent each year until 2050 if the target is to be achieved.

“This implies that most regions must reach peak production now or during the next decade, rendering many operational and planned fossil fuel projects unviable,” the researchers wrote in their paper ‘Unextractable fossil fuels in a 1.5 °C world’ published in the journal Nature this week.

The “bleak picture” of the scenarios in the study are probably underestimating the changes in fossil fuel production required for limiting global warming, said the authors of the study.

Economies dependent on oil for fiscal revenues, including OPEC’s number one and number two producers, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, as well as Bahrain and Kuwait, face “huge transition risk unless economies diversify rapidly,” the research found.

Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, said in a new climate report that the much-publicized goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will be beyond reach unless the world makes immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.  

The UN panel’s report is “a code red for humanity,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said.

“The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk,” Guterres added.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Alan Dr on September 10 2021 said:
    It is not just fossil fuels in the ground but a lot of fossil fuel experts mimic the Ostrich tactics and have their head there too. Current developments for, for example electric cars will lead to an oil demand peak for road transport fuels in just a few years.

    Anyone following developments for the electric grids of developed countries in the world will see (if the head is not in the ground) that the last decade already changed the game very much and that renewables will be the majority of the new electricity generation for this decade.

    For some the idea of change is conceived as a threat or as something we should fear and respond with plain denial of the new reality as opposed to being ready for it and anticipating towards it.
  • Mamdouh Salameh on September 09 2021 said:
    This study like the IEA’s net-zero emissions roadmap and calls by environmental activists and divestment campaigners to ditch fossil fuels have one thing in common: lack of logic. They fail miserably to answer two basic but essential questions.

    The first is can renewables satisfy global electricity demand? The answer is an emphatic NO. On their own, renewables aren’t capable of satisfying global energy demand because of their intermittent nature. Moreover, global energy transition won’t succeed without major contributions from both natural gas and nuclear energy.

    The second question is can the global economy survive without fossil fuels? The answer is again an emphatic NO. The global economy will come to a standstill without oil and gas.

    This means that there will neither be a post-oil era nor a peak oil demand either throughout the 21st century and probably far beyond. The global economy will continue to run on oil well into the future. Nothing could replace oil in the next 100 years and beyond.

    Moreover, the notions of an imminent global energy transition and net-zero emissions are illusions. Global energy transition can only be gradual with natural gas being the pivot for the transition.

    Therefore, the best way to combat climate change is to focus on reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuels and not their actual use.

    The real choice facing humanity is between (1) accepting a level of emissions which may or may not destroy our planet as nobody can be sure about that not even the Nobel prize physicists or (2) facing a certain and assured death as a result of starvation and plagues and even nuclear wars with nuclear powers trying to grab whatever resources they could get their hands on and in so doing destroy the whole planet.

    I believe that humanity will overwhelmingly vote for a continuation of fossil fuels in the absence of something more effective and safer.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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