This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

May 06, 2009

Study: Climate Targets Greatly Limit the World's Near-Term Use of Fossil Fuels

In the absence of technologies to capture and sequester carbon dioxide, efforts to avoid dangerous levels of climate change require that the world burns less than one quarter of the its proven fossil fuel reserves between now and 2050, according to a new study. The study, published in the journal Nature on April 30, finds that the world can have a reasonable chance of keeping global warming within 2°C above pre-industrial levels, but only if the world's nations can collectively limit their total emissions to one trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide between the years 2000 and 2050. That may sound like a lot, but the world has already burned through one-third of that allowance in only nine years.

On its current course, the world will reach the one trillion ton limit within 20 years, rather than 40, and the prospect of controlling the global temperature rise will be bleak. The study confirms the need to achieve substantial reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions soon, as any delays could add tremendous economic costs and technological challenges to the goal of limiting the global temperature rise. That conclusion echoes the findings of a report from McKinsey & Company that was reported in the EERE Network News in late February. See the press release from the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research.