An immediate ban on tapping new fossil fuel reserves would not stop us from breaking COP21’s 1.5C global warming goal, according to new analysis.
Nor would an immediate cessation of coal mining if existing gas and oil reserves are allowed to run their course, the research shows.
In fact, researchers found that the only way to reduce warming to a safe level is phasing out many coal, gas and oil extractions earlier than planned.
Researchers said that if existing reserves are fully exploited, we will pass the 1.5C goal and just break the 2C limit.
The analysis, conducted by Oil Change International, was released after 30 world leaders met in New York yesterday to ratification the Paris Agreement.
Stephen Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International, said in a statement:
“The industry has enough carbon in the pipeline – today – to break through the sky’s limit.”
Researchers analysed the embedded carbon emissions from oil, gas and coal currently locked up in operating fields and mines.
They found that the combined emissions potentially released by the reserves amounts to 942 tonnes of CO2.
But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climates Change says we must release less than 843 billion tonnes to hit the 2C target.
To meet the 1.5C target, we can release just 393 billion tonnes.
The report’s author Greg Muttitt said the most important move was to stop new extractions:
“Once an extraction operation is underway, it creates an incentive to continue so as to recoup investment and create profit, ensuring the product – the fossil fuels – are extracted and burned.
“These incentives are powerful, and the industry will do whatever it takes to protect their investments and keep drilling,” he said. “This is how carbon gets ‘locked-in’.”
The report highlights a number of potential projects in the US, Canada, Australia, India, Russia, Qatar and Iran which shouldn’t go ahead.
Muttitt said there only three possibilities: “We can manage the decline of our existing fields, shifting to clean energy and redeploying workers.
“Or we continue to develop new reserves that then have to be shut down suddenly, stranding assets, costing investors, and causing havoc in fossil fuel extraction dependent communities. Or we just carry on as we are – and wreak economic, ecological and human catastrophe on the world.”