Planned fossil fuel output swamps Paris climate goals

 

 

Oil, gas and coal output already planned or in the pipeline will overwhelm efforts to cap global warming at levels consistent with a liveable planet, the United Nations and leading research groups warned on Wednesday.

The world is on track to produce 50% more fossil fuels than could be burned without increasing Earth’s surface temperature by more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, they said in a major report.

If temperature rise is to be limited to 1.5C (2.7 Farenheit), planned fossil fuel production is more than double what can be tolerated.

The 2015 Paris Agreement calls for blocking global warming at well below 2C, and 1.5C if possible.

With only 1C of warming to date, the world has seen a crescendo of deadly heatwaves, flooding, and superstorms made more destructive by accelerating sea level rise.

“Over-investment” in coal, oil and gas supply locks in infrastructure that clashes head-on with the need to slash greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades, the researchers cautioned.

A UN report last year concluded that global CO2 emissions must drop 45% by 2030 — and reach “net zero” by 2050 — to cap temperature rise at 1.5C.

‘Production gap’

“We show for the first time just how big the disconnect is between Paris temperature goals and countries’ plans and policies for coal, oil and gas production,” said lead author Michael Lazarus, director of the Stockholm Environment Institute’s US Center.

This “production gap” — between output in the pipeline and the Paris climate goals — is largest for coal, according the report, a joint project by the UN Environment Programme and four climate change research centres.

Countries plan to produce 150% more coal by 2030 than would be consistent with a 2C world, and 280% more than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5C.

China is the world’s largest coal producer, accounting for more than 40% of global output in 2017. Domestic production doubled from 2000 to 2013, dropping briefly before resuming an upward trend.

For oil and gas, nations are on track to produce a 40% to 50% surplus in 2040.

The United States generated more of both fossil fuels than any other nation last year, and is the world’s number two producer of coal.

The Trump administration, which notified the UN earlier this month that the US will pull out of the Paris treaty, has taken steps to boost fossil fuel production, including subsidies for technology to capture and store CO2 emissions from power plants.

‘In a deep hole’

Many oil and gas projects approved by big fossil fuel companies in 2018 and the first 10 months of this year appear to assume that global temperatures will rise well beyond the 2C threshold, according to research published last month.

Eighteen major investments over this period, totalling $50 billion, along with $21 billion in additional infrastructure projects awaiting approval, would only become profitable if the world exceeded the Paris targets.

The new report points to several ways the fossil fuel “production gap” could be narrowed, but change has proven difficult to achieve.

One way is to reduce subsidies. Direct handouts to oil, gas and coal production worldwide run into the tens of billions of dollars each year.

Oil majors could also limit exploration and extraction, and shift towards other forms of energy, the report suggested, though few corporations have taken decisive steps in that direction.

The report comes as political and social pressure to act on climate change mounts.

More than 60 countries have committed to updating voluntary commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions taken under the Paris Agreement, and to lay out revised plans by the end of next year.

“Governments’ continued support for coal, oil and gas extraction is a big part of the problem,” said Mans Nilsson, one of 50 co-authors and executive director of the Stockholm Environment Institute. “We’re in a deep hole, and we need to stop digging.”

Next week the UN will issue it’s annual “emissions gap” report, which tracks the widening chasm between national carbon cutting pledges and the reductions in greenhouse gases needed to keep the planet from overheating.

To cap global warming at 2C, the collective pledge of the world’s nations would need to triple by 2030, according to last year’s edition. To prevent a rise above 1.5C, such efforts would have to increase fivefold.

Greenhouse gas emissions, meanwhile, continue to rise year-on-year, hitting 41.5 billion tonnes in 2018 — about five million tonnes of CO2 per hour.

© Agence France-Presse

Marlowe Hood
Marlowe Hood
AFP environment & science reporter, herald of the Anthropocene.
Advertisting

Workers fight job-creation ‘mess’

Former Ekurhuleni workers argued in court that a programme promising to equip them with skills simply acted as a labour broker for the municipality

Court dissolves local municipality

Landmark judgment paves the way for South Africans to use legal system to hold councils responsible

Mabuza’s ‘distant relative’ scored big

Eskom’s woes are often because of boiler problems at its power plants. R50-billion has been set aside to fix them, but some of the contracts are going to questionable entities

ANC faction gunning for Gordhan

The ambush will take place at an NEC meeting about Eskom. But the real target is Cyril Ramaphosa
Advertising

Press Releases

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Is your tertiary institution is accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Is your tertiary institution accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

VUT chancellor, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, dies

The university conferred the degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa on Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi for his outstanding leadership contributions to maths and science education development.

Innovate4AMR now in second year

SA's Team pill-Alert aims to tackle antimicrobial resistance by implementing their strategic intervention that ensures patients comply with treatment.

Medical students present solution in Geneva

Kapil Narain and Mohamed Hoosen Suleman were selected to present their strategic intervention to tackle antimicrobial resistance to an international panel of experts.