Drastic Changes Needed for Fossil Fuel Policy

Jan. 9, 2015

Study shows majority of reserves must be left alone to mitigate climate change.

As the debate over climate policy heats up in Washington, a new study demonstrates that up to a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves, and over 80% of global coal reserves cannot be used before 2050 if the warming of the climate is to stay below the 36.5 degrees F. (or 2 degrees C.) target agreed to by lawmakers.

The research, published in Nature, says that not only should the majority of existing fossil fuels be left in the ground, but any further development or increase in the use of unconventional oil, such as the kind found in the Arctic, must be stopped as well to limit the effects of climate change. The scientists’ model uses an internationally-recognized framework and provides a long-term look at the multiple factors, dynamics, and individual resource potential of specific fossil fuels.

“Policy makers must realize that their instincts to completely use the fossil fuels within their countries are wholly incompatible with their commitments to the 2 degrees C goal,” says Christophe McGlade, lead researcher on the project from the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources.

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