Study: Already developed fossil fuel reserves will potentially take us beyond the 2 degree warming limit
A ‘Study (pdf, 60 pages)’ called “The Sky’s Limit” just released by ‘Oil Change International’ finds that already developed reserves¹ of coal, oil and gas, if extracted and burned, will take us beyond the Paris Agreement’s 2°C warming limit (and of cause far beyond the 1.5°C limit). Developed reserves is defined as currently operating fields and mines (projected to run to the end of their probable lifetimes), wells already drilled, pits that are dug, and pipelines, processing facilities, railways and export terminals already constructed. The developed reserves hold roughly 30% of the fossil fuel reserves.
The study finds that the potential CO2 Emissions from these already developed reserves – if extracted and burned – will exceed the 2°C carbon budget calculated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The diagram below is copied from the study.
Estimates from the ‘International Monetary Fund’ (IMF) show that fossil fuel subsidies of 155 countries representing 98% of the world’s population, amounted $4.2 trillion (5.8% of global GDP) in 2011 and $4.9 trillion (6.5% of global GDP) in 2013. Projections for 2015 suggest $5.3 trillion (6.5% of global GDP). This huge amount of subsidies is of cause plain stupid.
For comparison, the total ‘Climate Debt of 147 countries‘ in ClimatePositions, accumulated between 2000 and 2013, amounted $5.2 trillion. Roughly speaking, one year of global subsidies equals the total accumulated Climate Debt. Note that global climate change funding is only around $0.14 trillion.
Mongolia is the world’s second largest coal producer per capita (Btu, 2011) and coal is the world’s no. 1 carbon dioxide emitter. However, the flawed democracy (surrounded by the giant authoritarian regimes of China and Russia) is Contribution Free (no Climate Debt) in ClimatePositions – how is this possible?
The table below ranks the thirteen largest per capita coal producers (Btu, 2011), with the world average set at 1.0. The Mongolian coal production is almost ten times larger than the world average. For comparison, the table shows per capita values of CO2 Emissions (from fossil fuels), GDP(ppp-$) and Climate Debt. More comments below the table.
March 2015, a group of prominent experts¹ in international law, human rights law, environmental law, and other law adopted the ‘Oslo Principles on Global Obligations to Reduce Climate Change’ (pdf 8 pages) – see also the expert group’s appended ‘Commentary’ (pdf 94 pages; this ‘List of contents’ written by me might be useful).
Before proceeding read this summarizing article on the subject in The Guardian: ‘Climate change: at last a breakthrough to our catastrophic political impasse?’ and this article in Huffington Post: ‘Landmark Dutch Lawsuit Puts Governments Around the World on Notice’.
The Oslo Principles are divided into a Preamble (introduction), a General Principle (Principle 1), Definitions (Principles 2-5) and Specific Obligations (A. Obligations of States and Enterprises, Principles 6-12; B. Obligations of States, Principles 13-24; C. Procedural Obligations of States, Principles 25-26 and D. Obligations of Enterprises, Principles 27-30).
In short, the message is that ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions (GHG emissions) are unlawful unless they are consistent with a plan of steady reductions to ensure that the global surface temperature increase never exceeds pre-industrial temperatures by more than two degrees Celsius – in accordance with the recommendations of an overwhelming majority of leading climate scientists.
Below is a selection of essential selected quotes from the Oslo Principles (in red) and the appended Commentaries (in blue).
Norway’s first oil field started production in 1971 and since 1996 petroleum revenue has been transferred to what’s now called the ‘Government Pension Fund Global’ – often referred to as Norway’s Oil Fund. Today, the fund’s market value is around $884 Billion. For comparison, the updated Norwegian Climate Contribution in ClimatePositions is $16.4 Billion and the climate financing¹ $1.5 Billion. Below are listed some perspectival per capita figures:
- The current market value of Norway’s Oil Fund is around $188,000 per capita (per Norwegian). In 2000 the market value was $11,000 per capita.
- The accumulated Climate Contribution in ClimatePositions is $3,490 per capita.
- The climate financing is $321 per capita (9% of the Climate Contribution which is world record; read this ‘article‘).
- The updated Climate Debt is $3,169 per capita which ranks Norway 15th in the world (see the ‘ranking’).
- The oil production per capita was 6th in the world in 2013, after Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea – in 2000 Norway was 2nd. Norway’s oil production decreased by 46% between 2000 and 2013 … the world production increased by 17% during the same period.
- The natural gas production per capita was 4th in the world in 2012, after Qatar, Trinidad and Tobago and Brunei. Norway’s natural gas production increased by 106% between 2000 and 2012 … the world production increased by 37% during the same period.
The following examines Norway’s CO2 Emissions, Climate Debt over time, GDP(ppp-$) and the investment strategy of Norway’s Oil Fund.
‘Exxon Mobil Corporation’ from Texas, the United States is, quote: “committed to being the world’s premier petroleum and petrochemical company.” However, based on estimates of the potential carbon dioxide emissions from the proven reserves of oil and gas underground, ExxonMobil is only the 4th largest company in the world after Gazprom, Rosneft (both Russia) and PetroChina (read this ‘article’).
Since the United Nations has decided to keep the rise in global temperature below 2°C and consequently only between 8% and 34% of the proven fossil fuel reserves can be extracted and burned over the next 40 years. A recent ‘study in Nature‘ suggest that, globally, 33% of oil reserves, 50% of gas reserves and over 80% of current coal reserves should remain unused from 2010 to 2050 in order to meet the target of 2°C (also read the article ‘Divestment from Fossil Fuel Companies’). It will be interesting to see how companies such as ExxonMobil meet this moral challenge. The following highlight some forecasts from ExxonMobil’s ‘Outlook for energy 2015: A View to 2040’ (76 pages).
Since ‘COP1 in Berlin’ in 1995 the global CO2 Emissions from fossil fuels have increased by 50% (in addition to increased greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, cement production, melting permafrost, etc.). The purpose of COP1, COP2, COP3, COP4, COP5, COP6, COP7, COP8, COP9, COP10, COP11, COP12, COP13, COP14, COP15, COP16, COP17, COP18 and COP19 were to reduce dangerous greenhouse gases and counteract global warming. The current COP20 in Lima builds on twenty years of mushrooming in a flawed system without tools to secure meaningful negotiations and reject derailments caused by powerful nations such as the United States and China. Meanwhile, depression¹ is spreading from climate scientists to larger parts of the planet’s population.
The estimated reserves of oil, gas and coal underground will, if extracted and burned, release 3,700-7,100 Gigatons CO2 (billion tons). However, only 550-1,270 Gigatons CO2 can be burned before 2050, since the United Nations has decided (!?) to keep the rise in temperature below 2°C. If the UN plan is followed, then only 8%-34% of the estimated reserves can be extracted and burned over the next 40 years. Many scientists believe that this assessment is overly optimistic; read this ‘article‘. Subject to uncertainties, this is the basic challenge faced by the world leaders, the Fossil Fuel Companies and mankind. Given the huge investment costs of search and extraction of Fossil Fuels one would expect the search to fade out, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.