RICHMOND, Va. — Fossil fuel reserves in existing mines and oil fields are enough to exceed the world’s entire remaining carbon budget and raise global temperatures above limits set at the 2015 Paris climate summit, according new report from Oil Change International.
David Turnbull, a report contributor with the group, said if the world is serious about avoiding what scientists have called catastrophic climate change, governments need to stop any new development.
“The most rational course of action is to start now to move away from fossil fuels,” Turnbull said, “and to ensure that we’re doing it in a way that really helps our economy and doesn’t hurt it.”
The report’s carbon count did not include future “proven reserves” – a big part of energy companies’ valuation on Wall Street – only existing wells, mines and refineries.
The study noted that the industry is set to invest some $14 trillion in new extraction and infrastructure over the next 20 years in the U.S., Canada, Australia, India, Russia, Qatar and Iran.
The good news, Turnbull said, is that there’s time to transition to clean energy before emissions pass 800 gigatons – the mark set by scientists to keep average global temperatures from rising above two degrees Celsius. He said if the decline in production is properly managed, we can meet energy needs and climate goals.
“Billions upon billions of dollars are spent by governments by way of fossil-fuel subsidies,” Turnbull said. “Those need to be eliminated and put towards programs that can help develop transition programs for fossil-fuel workers to bring them into the clean-energy economy.”
If new development is allowed to go forward, he said, assets could end up “stranded” when the reality of climate change finally sinks in for policy makers; which would hurt investors and communities dependent on fossil fuels.
“But there’s also a financial aspect of this where it’s clear that smart investors are going to move their money away from risky fossil-fuel companies as we move forward,” Turnbull said.
A federal appeals court is scheduled to hear opening arguments Tuesday in a case challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan -rules designed to help the U-S meet climate goals set in Paris.