Climate Scientists Warn: No New Oil or Gas Projects Can Be Started

May 19th, 2022 - by Oil Change International & The Guardian & Sierra Club and Beyond Dirty Fuels

No New Oil or Gas Projects Should Be Permitted

Oil Change International

(May 17, 2022) — This morning we released a new peer-reviewed study proving something we’ve known for years: Already-developed oil, gas, and coal extraction could push the world temperature well beyond a 1.5°C [increase] and jeopardize staying well-below 2°C.

Read more about the study,Existing fossil fuel extraction would warm the world beyond 1.5°C” in The Guardian and then help spread the word — on Facebook and Twitter — that many existing oil, gas, and coal extraction sites need to be phased out.

This new journal article is the first peer-reviewed study to back up the findings of the International Energy Agency (IEA): No new coalmines OR oil and gas fields can be developed under a 1.5°C warming limit. But our study goes further — it shows that committed emissions from already developed fields and mines are 60% larger than the remaining carbon budget for 1.5°C.

The study was done in collaboration with the International Institute for Sustainable Development and used a commercial database of over 25,000 oil and gas fields and developed a new dataset of coal mines across the largest coal-producing countries.

Using this data, we estimate that developed fields and mines could lead to cumulative emissions of 936 Gt CO2 if their reserves are fully depleted and burned. That’s enough to push far past 1.5°C, almost to 2°C — the very upper bound of the Paris Agreement.

This study builds on and reinforces the many “Sky’s Limit” reports we’ve put out over the past 6 years, the first of which launched back in 2016. Since then we’ve put out similar Sky’s Limit reports focused on NorwayGermanyCaliforniaDenmarkUK, and Africa. Across all the reports the message is the same: we need a managed decline of fossil fuel extraction now.

It’s hard to overstate how important the new analysis is. In the midst of Russia’s war on Ukraine, it’s clearer than ever that building new fossil fuel infrastructure is not a viable option if we want to maintain a livable planet.

Read about the study in the Guardian’s exclusive coverage [below] and then help spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.

Scientists Warn: Nearly Half of Existing Facilities Must Close to Limit Heating to 1.5C

Damian Carrington / The Guardian

(May 17, 2022) — Nearly half of existing fossil fuel production sites need to be shut down early if global heating is to be limited to 1.5C, the internationally agreed goal for avoiding climate catastrophe, according to a new scientific study.

The assessment goes beyond the call by the International Energy Agency in 2021 to stop all new fossil fuel development to avoid the worst impacts of global heating, a statement seen as radical at the time.

The new research reaches its starker conclusion by not assuming that new technologies will be able to suck huge amounts of COfrom the atmosphere to compensate for the burning of coal, oil and gas. Experts said relying on such technologies was a risky gamble.

The Guardian revealed last week that 195 oil and gas “carbon bombs” are planned by the industry. This means projects that would each produce at least 1bn tonnes of CO2. Together, these carbon bombs alone would drive global heating beyond the 1.5C limit. But the dozen biggest oil companies are on track to spend $103m (£81m) a day until 2030 on climate-busting schemes.

Greg Muttitt, at the International Institute for Sustainable Development, was one of the leaders of the new research and said: “Halting new extraction projects is a necessary step, but still not enough to stay within our rapidly dwindling carbon budget. Some existing fossil fuel licences and production will need to be revoked and phased out early. Governments need to start tackling head-on how to do this in a fair and equitable way, which will require overcoming opposition from fossil fuel interests.”

Kelly Trout, at Oil Change International, the other lead author of the work, said: “Our study reinforces that building new fossil fuel infrastructure is not a viable response to Russia’s war on Ukraine. The world has already tapped too much oil and gas.” The researchers said governments should accelerate the introduction of renewable energy and efficiency measures instead.

Peer-reviewed Study Warns
40% of Developed Fossil Fuel Reserves
Must Remain in the Ground

The new study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, analysed a database of more than 25,000 oil and gas fields and developed a new dataset of coal mines. The researchers found that fields and mines that have already been developed would lead to 936bn tonnes of CO2 when fully exploited and burned. That is 25 years of global emissions at today’s rate — the world’s scientists agree emissions must fall by half by 2030.

The researchers calculated that 40% of developed fossil fuels must stay in the ground to have a 50-50 chance of global temperature rise stopping at 1.5C. Half the emissions would come from coal, a third from oil and a fifth from gas. The researchers found that almost 90% of developed reserves are located in just 20 countries, led by China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the US, followed by Iran, India, Indonesia, Australia and Canada.

The research only considered projects where companies had made final investment decisions, that means committed to spending billions on building rigs and pipelines to extract the fossil fuels. A 2021 study, led by Daniel Welsby at University College London, assessed all known reserves and found 90% of coal and 60% of oil and gas must remain unexploited.

Welsby said: “The new study is a valuable contribution to our understanding of what fossil fuels are highly likely to be produced and the volume which needs to remain in the ground if global warming is to be limited.” But he noted the study did not fully account for methane, a potent greenhouse gas, or the oil and gas used for petrochemicals.

The study did not estimate how much CO2 could be removed from the atmosphere by technology in future. “These technologies are unproven at scale,” said Muttitt. “There’s a lot of talk about them, but we believe it would be a mistake to predicate achieving climate goals on these being delivered at a very large scale. We just don’t know whether it will be possible in terms of financing or governance.

Maeve O’Connor, at the Carbon Tracker thinktank, the author of a new report, said: “Oil and gas companies are gambling on emissions [reducing] technologies that pose a huge risk to both investors and the climate. Most of these technologies are still at an early stage of development, with few large projects working at anything like the scale required by company goals, while solutions that involve tree planting require huge areas of land.”

Research published in 2019 found that the world already had more fossil fuel power stations than needed and that some may need to be retired early. The new analysis found fossil fuel production sites also need to be closed, but how to do that is yet to be determined.

“This is an absolutely key question,” said Muttitt. “One of the biggest barriers will be the legal infrastructure that oil and gas companies and some coal companies have constructed to defend their investments and their profitability, through treaties like the energy charter treaty [ECT].” The ECT allows companies to sue governments over lost profits. There is some discussion, he said, that European Union nations could withdraw from the treaty en masse.

A small number of governments, including Denmark, Costa Rica, France, Ireland and California, have committed to stop issuing new fossil fuel licences. If more join, that could be a game-changer, said Muttitt.

Dan Jørgensen, the Danish climate and energy minister, said: “The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance provides a way for governments to act together to begin a managed phase-out of oil and gas production to avoid dangerous levels of climate change.”

Damian Carrington is the Environment editor of The Guardian.

ACTION ALERT: Stop Expansion of
Oil Drilling and Fracking on the Gulf Coast

Jessi Parfait / Sierra Club and Beyond Dirty Fuels

LOUISIANA (May 18, 2022) — Still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Ida in 2021, Grand Isle has borne the burden of the detrimental impacts of climate change caused by the fossil fuel industry. Once a thriving coastal community, hurricanes have been increasing in intensity, the sea level continues to rise, and coastal erosion has worsened — leaving people who fled to safety wondering if they should even return.

New Fortress Energy, a company looking to expand fossil fuel exports, is proposing to fast-track the construction of a floating export terminal in this area.

The facility would export 2.8 million metric tonnes of gas annually — spewing emissions equivalent to 3.7 million cars. This project would cause the expansion of oil drilling and fracking that further lock in fossil fuel dependence, exacerbate the climate crisis, and expose people to toxic air and water pollution.

You can stop this threat to the health of our coastal waters, surrounding communities, and environmental justice.  

Families displaced by our climate crisis have become a common story along the coast: my family home was severely damaged by Hurricane Ida and many other homes were reduced to rubble. This was the most damaging hurricane I’ve seen in my life and I know climate change will only make these storms more frequent.

The New Fortress Energy floating export facility would threaten already-vulnerable frontline communities, raise energy prices for people in the region, exacerbate hurricanes and climate-fueled storms, and lock in climate pollution far beyond what our planet can handle.

We know extractive industries worsen the effects of climate change, we know when industries destroy the marsh they are destroying our first line of defense against storms, and we know these facilities poison communities with some of the highest cancer rates in the country.

Take action to stop New Fortress Energy from producing emissions for decades to come that will further contribute to our climate crisis, and continue to harm and pollute our communities.

Louisiana is home to beautiful wetlands, wildlife, and one of the most beloved unique cultures in the country. We produce products that are world-renowned, food that is often imitated but not duplicated, and our communities attract millions of visitors each year. It is all only possible because of the people who live here – we must work together to protect this state and its residents from harm from fossil-fueled greed.

ACTION: Send a personalized message to the Maritime Administration (MARAD) urging them to deny New Fortress Energy’s license for a dangerous floating export terminal.

If we want to continue our way of life for future generations, it’s time to recognize and fight back against the harm that’s been done to usjoin the fight to stop dirty, polluting fossil fuel proposals. Louisiana’s culture does not exist without its people and environment, but we are in a vulnerable position because of all the damage done by the fossil fuel industry. If we care for the land, it will care and provide for us as it has done since it was first settled by Indigenous peoples thousands of years ago.

Thank you for all you do for your community and our environment!

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Jessi Parfait is the Louisiana Campaign Representative for Beyond Dirty Fuels