A new analysis has found that burning the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels would emit more planet-heating emissions that have occurred since the industrial revolution, easily blowing the remaining carbon budget before societies are subjected to catastrophic global heating.
According to the analysis which has been described as the first public database of fossil fuel production, enormous 3.5tn tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be emitted if governments allow identified reserves of coal, oil and gas to be extracted and used.
The database, which covers around three-quarters of global energy production, reveals that the US and Russia each have enough fossil fuel reserves to single-handedly eat up the world’s remaining carbon budget before the planet is tipped into 1.5C (2.7F) or more of heating compared to the pre-industrial era.
The analysis showed that among all countries, there is enough fossil fuel to blow this remaining budget seven times over, propelling people and ecosystems into disastrous heatwaves, floods, drought and other impacts never seen before in human history.
Although governments have agreed to restrain global heating to 1.5C, they have failed to actively halt new fossil fuel leases or extraction.
In his reaction, Mark Campanale, founder of Carbon Tracker Initiative, which launched the new Global Registry of Fossil Fuels with Global Energy Monitor on Monday said, “You’ve got governments issuing new licenses or permits for coal that are completely decoupled from their own climate commitments,”.
Scientists estimate that the world can only emit 400 to 500bn more tons of greenhouse gases, for it to have an even chance of avoiding 1.5C or more of global heating. This would involve drastically cutting emissions by around half this decade before zeroing them out entirely by the mid-point of the century.
But the US alone has the potential to release 577bn tons of emissions, most of that from coal, through its known fossil fuel reserves.
While U.S president, Joe Biden has presided over America’s first-ever climate change legislation and vowed to tackle what he has called an “existential threat to humanity”, his administration has continued to hand out leases for oil and gas drilling, including in vast swathes of the Gulf of Mexico, site of the BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.
The database further showed that of these reserves, 27bn tons of emissions are set to be released from approved American projects already under development, which include 33.2bn barrels of oil.
Story was adapted from the Guardian.