If the world is to have even half the chance of achieving its most ambitious climate goals, then most of the planet’s fossil fuel reserves must remain underground.
a new one Learn Published in the magazine yesterday nature The study found that between now and 2050, 60% of oil and natural gas and up to 90% of coal must remain unextracted and unused so that the world has at least a 50% chance of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
These results are broadly consistent with the results of many recent reports from the United Nations, the International Energy Agency, and other agencies, which “all provide evidence that there is a need for immediate and drastic cuts in fossil fuel production to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees,” University College London Dan Welsby, the researcher and lead author of the study, said at a press conference announcing the results.
According to the Paris Climate Agreement, countries are working to keep the global temperature within 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels, and within 1.5 degrees Celsius as much as possible. Studies have shown that the effects of climate change—melting ice, rising sea levels, more extreme weather, etc.—are worse at 2 degrees Celsius than at 1.5 degrees Celsius, and worse at higher temperatures. These goals are to limit the consequences of global warming as much as possible.
However, more and more studies have shown that the target of 1.5 C is getting closer.
Since the beginning of the industrial age that began about 150 years ago, the world has warmed by more than 1 degree Celsius.landmark UN report The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report on climate change issued last month warned that the 1.5 degrees Celsius mark could be reached within 20 years.
The United Nations report shows that even if there is a 50% chance of achieving the goal, the world can only emit about 460 billion metric tons of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. At the current world rate, this is another 12 years of emissions.
This means that global carbon emissions need to be drastically reduced immediately to achieve the target.
The new study published by four researchers at University College London paints an equally urgent picture. But it looks at the future from a different perspective. Instead of calculating emissions consistent with the 1.5 C target, it calculates the amount of fossil fuel reserves that must be unused.
The research started with a carbon budget of approximately 580 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.This is based on a Earlier IPCC report, Starting in 2018, focusing on the 1.5 C target. (The latest report indicates that the budget is much smaller.)
The researchers then use a special model to simulate how the world’s energy system will evolve in the next few decades to stay within that budget. For example, simulations show a rapid transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The model also assumes that large amounts of carbon dioxide will be removed in the future-using various forms of technology to absorb carbon from the atmosphere.
James Price, another author of the study, said that even with these assumptions, a strict carbon budget “is basically the limit of the problem that our model can solve.” The model attempts to adhere to realistic limits in terms of costs and the speed at which the global economy reduces its dependence on fossil fuels.
The model shows that between now and 2050, fossil fuel production must be drastically reduced to achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius target. For certain types of fossil fuels in certain parts of the world, the model implies that production should have reached its peak by now. For others, production must start to decline immediately.
For example, for all regions of the world, the study indicates that coal production should have reached its peak. Oil production in all regions should peak now or at least by 2025.
For natural gas, the regional situation is more complicated.
For example, in most parts of Europe, the United States, and Russia, natural gas production must now peak. On the other hand, natural gas production in other parts of the world may continue to increase for some time. Natural gas production in the Middle East, Africa, and certain parts of Asia may increase before the 2030s and then begin to decline.
The study found that all in all, by 2050, oil and natural gas production must fall by about 3% every year.
Many areas with the largest fossil fuel reserves must proportionally keep most of these resources underground. For example, Canada must keep 83% of its recoverable oil underground, compared with approximately 38% in Russia and other former Soviet countries.
In the United States, the study indicated that 31% of oil reserves, 52% of natural gas, and 97% of coal must remain underground.
These cuts have been steep. But the author warns that this study may underestimate the challenge.
On the one hand, the study only investigated the measures that must be taken with a 50% chance of reaching the 1.5 C target. Better odds require stronger action. The study also assumes that the carbon budget is larger-which means it allows more carbon emissions-than suggested in the latest UN report.
The model used in the study also assumes that large amounts of carbon dioxide will be removed in the future, which relies on technology that many scientists are still skeptical.
So are these production cuts even possible?
“Of course, they are technically feasible,” Wellsby said. But he cautioned that at present, “our global planning and operating fossil fuel trajectories are completely moving in the wrong direction.”
“This is indeed a case of political will to resist the temptation to extract the last point of fossil fuels and focus on really vigorously promoting a low-carbon economy. This is definitely feasible, but it does boil down to the politics of the situation,” Pry S added.
At the same time, the 2 C goal of the Paris Agreement is still out of reach. Even if the 1.5 degrees Celsius target is rapidly approaching, experts have repeatedly warned that this does not mean that there is any reason to abandon climate action.
Most climate consequences occur on gradients-every point of warming makes them worse, which means that every point of preventing warming will have an impact. More than 1.5 C does not mean that the world will immediately fall off the climate cliff. At the same time, efforts to limit global temperature should remain the ultimate goal.
“Given the evidence that as close as possible to 1.5 degrees will offset the worst effects of climate change, I think this is why we are trying to push our model as close as possible to 1.5 degrees,” Wellsby said.
forward from Electronics News With permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2021. E&E News provides important news for energy and environmental professionals.