Friday, September 23, 2016

Climate change: Its us or the fossil fuel industry

We always knew that dealing with climate change and preventing the oceans from drowning Bangladesh and the Netherlands and Tuvalu would mean having to wean our civilisation off fossil fuels in favour of cleaner energy sources. But a new analysis of the global carbon budget - how much carbon we can emit before we are likely to cause dangerous levels of climate change - shows if we are to survive, we need to kill the fossil fuel industry off urgently:

Scientists say that to have even a two-thirds chance of staying below a global increase of two degrees Celsius, we can release 800 gigatons more CO2 into the atmosphere. But the Rystad data shows coal mines and oil and gas wells currently in operation worldwide contain 942 gigatons worth of CO2. So the math problem is simple, and it goes like this:

942 > 800

“What we found is that if you burn up all the carbon that’s in the currently operating fields and mines, you’re already above two degrees,” says Stephen Kretzmann, OCI’s executive director. It’s not that if we keep eating like this for a few more decades we’ll be morbidly obese. It’s that if we eat what’s already in the refrigerator we’ll be morbidly obese.

And its worse than that, because two degrees isn't the target anymore - its 1.5 degrees. Which makes our total carbon budget to have even a 50-50 chance of meeting it only 353 gigatons. Which means that instead of the fossil fuel industry having the lifetime of their current fields to adapt, they've got only a third of that. Basicly, we need to put them out of business as quickly as possible, or we fry.

The good news is that we have the technology. A decarbonised economy is demonstrably feasible, and growing within the fossil economy as I write. With wind and solar and electric cars, we can eliminate carbon from the bulk of the energy chain, and use it only where we really need to. The bad news is that pushing this sort of crash transformation will require serious policy from the government - policy that will be fought tooth and nail by the fossil fuel dinosaurs, because it literally means their extinction. But its basicly us or them now, and we need to make sure that those rich polluting pricks don't destroy our future.