Limiting global warming means vast fuel reserves are ‘unburnable’


A new study by British researchers has found that huge amounts of known fossil fuel reserves should stay in the ground, if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change.

ONE THIRD OF THE world’s oil reserves, half of gas reserves and 80 per cent of current coal reserves should not be used in the coming decades if global warming is to stay below an agreed two-degree Celsius limit, scientists said on Wednesday.

In a study published in the journal Nature, researchers said the vast majority of coal reserves in China, Russia and the United States should stay in the ground, as well as more than 260,000 million barrels of oil reserves in the Middle East — equivalent to all of Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves.

The region which includes Australia should also leave as much as 95 per cent of its coal reserves in the ground, the study found. Carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) made only “modest” difference to the amount of fuel available to be burned.

“Policy makers must realise that their instincts to completely use the fossil fuels within their countries are wholly incompatible with their commitments to the 2°C goal,” said Christophe McGlade, who led the study at University College London’s Institute for Sustainable Resources.

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