Thursday, April 23, 2015

Are there Limits to the Burning of Carbon Fuels?

The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 °C (Abstract, Christophe McGlade & Paul Ekins, Nature, Jan. 7, 2015)

Also discussed here: The Limits to Fossil Fuel Use? (Wil Burns, Teaching Climate Law, Feb. 6, 2015)

 Today we review research into the implications of using fossil fuel reserves if the emissions from their use are to stay below the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that limit warming to 2 degrees C or less. The conclusions include the need to keep 82% of coal reserves in the ground, to cease production of bitumen in the Canadian oil sands by 2040 and to to keep 80% of unconventional natural gas reserves unburned by 2050 – even if carbon capture and sequestration is widely deployed, should it be found to be effective. The “Limits to Growth” on which the Club of Rome was founded now has application to the burning of fossil fuels.

 Limits for carbons  
Key Quotes:

“to have at least a 50 per cent chance of keeping warming below 2 °C throughout the twenty-first century, the cumulative carbon emissions between 2011 and 2050 need to be limited to around 1,100 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2).. However, the greenhouse gas emissions contained in present estimates of global fossil fuel reserves are around three times higher than this  

Our results suggest that, globally, a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80 per cent of current coal reserves should remain unused from 2010 to 2050 in order to meet the target of 2 °C”

“There is a massive gap between both estimated fossil fuel resources (nearly 11,000 Gt CO2) and reserves (nearly 2,900) and the 1100 gigaton carbon dioxide budget that may be necessary to avoid passing critical temperature thresholds”

“ 82% of coal reserves will need to remain unburned to not exceed the world’s carbon budget by 2050”

“ In terms of unconventional oil, natural bitumen utilization in Canada must become “negligible” by 2020, and without CCS, all bitumen production must cease by 2040.”

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