New research published in the British scientific journal, Nature, finds that limiting average global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Celsius at most) relative to preindustrial levels will require ambitious reductions in fossil fuel use. Researchers used a global energy systems model to determine the amount of fossil fuels that must be be left unextracted for a 50 percent chance of capping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2050. A mere 50 percent.

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Unextractable Reserves Under a 1.5 °C Target for Paris Agreement-Compliance

By their calculations, close to 60 percent of the globe’s oil and fossil methane gas reserves, and nearly 90 percent of its coal will have to remain unextracted if humanity is to meet the Paris Climate Agreement‘s goal of limiting global temperature rising to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) relative preindustrial estimates. Fossil fuel and gas use must continue to fall by at least 3 percent each ensuing year until the 2050 deadline.

By employing the TIMES Integrated Assessment Model, researchers were able to determine the sources (conversion, transportation and distribution) of fossil fuels across various sectors. This framework was used to approximate future energy demands in the simulated future scenario. The model depicts 16 different regions with oil reserves and trading networks which connect them. If “very high shares” of fossil fuel reserves that would be considered valuable for trade or energy production remain untouched, this can be considered a loss to the economies that could have used or sold them in the future.

Climate Change Impact On Developing Countries

The research team, consisting of Dan Welsby, James Price, Steve Pye & Paul Ekins, state that they’ve underestimated the production changes that are actually required. In other words, the cuts suggested for energy, transportation and agriculture sectors posited in the study is likely not ambitious enough. Earlier this year, International Energy Agency (IEA) published a report outlining how greenhouse gas emissions would have to be halted in order to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) by the year 2050. Accomplishing the feat requires more stringent energy and environmental policies. The most developed nations have primary responsibility for cutting oil, gas.

Fossil Fuel Production Decline

If developing nations are going to be allowed to continue to produce CO2 and other fossil fuels (and they should), carbon budgets will have to prioritize them, rather than allowing business as usual for the business and countries that have the largest carbon contributions. Nations which have already built resilient economies, including China, the United States, India, the Russian Federation and Japan are world leaders in terms of heat trapping gas emissions. According to the least developed countries group of UNFCCC, the least developed nations are those countries that have the least capacity to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. Therefore, the onus for reducing nonrenewable fuel use falls squarely on the shoulders of those countries which have the highest emission rates.

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