If the world’s remaining reserves of fossil fuels were used, it would hurt the carbon budget seven times. This is the main finding of the new Global Fossil Fuel Registry, the first-of-its-kind database to track the world’s fossil fuel production, reserves and emissions.
The United Nations estimates that the Earth’s remaining carbon budget is around 360 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
However, the global record reveals that the US and Russia have enough fossil fuel reserves to blow up the entire global carbon budget, even if all other countries stop production immediately.
Moreover, burning the world’s remaining fossil fuel reserves would release 3.5 trillion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all emissions since the Industrial Revolution.
“We can’t afford to use them all, or almost any of them at this point,” said Rob Jackson, a Stanford University climate scientist. “We’re out of time to build new things in old ways.”
Human activity since the Industrial Revolution, fueled largely by coal, oil and gas, has also led to just under 1.2°C (2.1°F) of warming and brought with it more severe droughts, floods and severe storms due to rising waters.
The registry, developed by Carbon Tracker and Global Energy Monitor, includes data from more than 50,000 oil, gas and coal fields in 89 countries, covering 75% of global reserves, production and emissions.
It aims to make previously disparate or otherwise inaccessible data available to the public, including to investors trying to better understand assets that may be at risk of being uneconomic or stuck, in the low-energy transition.