Researchers estimating how much of the world’s coal, oil and natural gas reserves should be left unburned to stem the rise of climate-changing gases in the atmosphere say even more of these fossil fuels should be left in the ground.
The researchers, from University College London, say previous estimates, published in 2015, needed to be updated.
They now estimate that nearly 60% of the world’s oil and gas reserves and 90% of coal reserves must remain in the ground by 2050 to meet the climate goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Those limits would give the world a 50 to 50 chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times, according to their study in the journal Wednesday. Nature.
“We believe the new paper adds more weight to recent research indicating that global fossil methane oil and gas production should peak now,” said Dan Welsby, lead author and energy and environment researcher at University College. from London at a press conference on Tuesday. . “We found that global production needs are declining at an average annual rate of about 3 percent (through) 2050.”
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Emissions from burning fuels for electricity, transportation and other uses have long been known to be the main driver of climate change, pulling carbon long buried in fossil fuels out of the ground and depositing it in the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. Scientists say these heat-trapping gases are causing sea level rise and extreme weather events around the world.
The last study like this was several months before world leaders drafted the 2015 Paris agreement and pledged to reduce warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), but preferably limit it to 1.5. Celsius degrees.
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That study, also conducted by scientists at University College London, looked at how much countries would have to limit fossil fuel emissions to keep warming at 2 degrees Celsius. They found that a third of the oil reserves, half of the gas reserves and 80% of the coal reserves should remain in the ground.
The emission reductions proposed in this latest study dramatically increase the amount of fossil fuels that would have to remain in the ground to meet the Paris targets.
The study comes less than a month after the International Panel on Climate Change. reported that the world will likely cross the 1.5 degree Celsius warming threshold in the 2030s under five emission reduction scenarios. The scientific consensus is that any warming above 1.5 degrees Celsius could lead to catastrophic impacts, such as the loss of species.
While acknowledging the bleak outlook of the IPCC report, Welsby said he wanted to model a scenario that would limit the worst impacts of climate change.
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Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, editor-in-chief of the Annals of Global Health, said the document underscores the importance of government and corporate policies in limiting warming. “Nations and corporate entities need to realign their goals and leave oil, gas and coal in the ground if we are ever going to get there,” Landrigan said.
His magazine was one of more than 200 health and medical publications that co-published an editorial Sunday calling on world leaders to take emergency action to stop global warming.
In the editorial, medical and public health professionals highlighted the health impacts already caused by our changing climate.
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Dr. Renee Salas, who works in the emergency department at Massachusetts General Hospital, said she has seen patients arrive with health conditions that have been created or exacerbated by the impacts of climate change, such as heat stroke and respiratory problems.
While all are at risk of adverse health impacts from climate change, Salas said, children, the elderly, the poor and racial minorities are disproportionately affected most.
A report last week by the US Environmental Protection Agency. found that poor people and people of color will be disproportionately affected by intense heat, flooding, and air pollution caused by our changing climate.
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Katharine Egland of Gulfport, Mississippi saw her home nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The busy 2020 hurricane and storm season cost her an additional $ 12,000 in damage. And he spent most of his vacation last week helping Gulf Coast residents survive and recover from Hurricane Ida.
As chair of the Environmental and Climate Justice Committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, she has seen first-hand how poor and minority residents of the region suffer the most from the impacts of climate change.
While welcoming the fossil fuel findings from the new climate studies, Egland said she’s frustrated that world leaders haven’t taken more steps to reduce warming.
“Usually when these reports come out,… front-line communities say, ‘Okay, we practically knew that,’” he said. “And we advocate keeping it all underground. And we keep hearing the reasons why that can’t be done, but we know it must be done. “
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