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LEAVING FOSSIL FUELS IN THE GROUND: HOW MUCH, WHERE AND OVER WHAT TIME FRAME?

Christophe EMcGlade12 March 2015

shale gas extraction © istockphoto

by Dr Christophe McGlade and Prof Paul Ekins, UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources

We have known for some time that to limit global warming, some of the world’s fossil fuel reserves are going to have to stay in the ground. All of the carbon dioxide that would result from burning current fossil fuel reserves is around three times the amount that gives us a decent chance of staying below the 2oC threshold (the temperature rise accepted by the international community as associated with the possible onset of dangerous climate change).

Until recently people therefore frequently reported that two thirds of fossil fuels globally were ‘unburnable’. While it’s possible to get lots of interesting insights from this simple finding, this treats all the fossil fuels as the same. This is too simplistic. (more…)