A new scientific study, published in the journal Nature has found that if we want to have even a 50% chance of keeping global temperature increases below 1.5C, almost 60% of existing oil and gas reserves will need to stay in the ground, along with 90% of coal. The report concludes that we are currently at the peak of oil and gas production and that production will decline by 3% per year from now on.
This bleak assessment means that far fewer fossil fuels will be able to be extracted than had previously been estimated. However, the report’s authors also think that their numbers are probably an underestimate of the reductions that will actually required, because their study has not taken into account variables like feedback effects in the climate system.
There are positives though, according to Prof. Paul Ekins of University College London, one of the report’s authors. He said, “…we can actually do it. We know clean electricity technologies can be deployed at scale very quickly, when the policy mechanisms are put in place to do it.”
Former UN climate chief Christians Figueres agrees, saying, “The shift to clean energy must be accelerated in order to maintain human activity now and protect human wellbeing tomorrow.”
The report’s findings go even further than those of an International Energy Agency (IEA) report, released in May 2021, which concluded that there could be no new fossil fuel development if the world is to reach net zero by 2050.
With COP26 rapidly approaching, pressure on the world’s governments, and particularly those from fossil fuel producing countries, to truly commit to real reductions in fossil fuel extraction is growing.
As Christophe McGlade from the IEA said, “None of the net zero pledges made by major oil and gas producing countries include explicit targets to curtail production.”