Friday, September 23, 2016

Is it safe to extract the coal and oil already discovered?

                                              Comments due by September 30, 2016 (# 3)
The world’s working coal mines and oil and gas fields contain enough carbon to push the world beyond the threshold for catastrophic climate change, according to a report released on Thursday.
If all the existing fuel were to be burned, projects currently operating or under construction could be expected to release 942Gt CO2, said the report by US-based thinktank Oil Change International (OCI).
This exceeds the carbon limits that would most likely warm the world 1.5C and even over 2C above the pre-industrial average. These were limits agreed at last year’s climate conference in Paris.
It has been established for some time that the enormous unworked reserves claimed by fossil fuel companies contain vastly too much carbon to ever be burned safely. But OCI said that this was the first time an analysis had been done of how much greenhouse gas is stored in projects already working or under construction.
Founder of and climate campaign Bill McKibben said the report “change[d] our understanding of where we stand. Profoundly”.
It means that even if not a single new coal mine, oil or gas field were opened up, the carbon budget would be at risk, said OCI’s executive director Stephen Kretzmann.
Projected investment in new extraction sites and infrastructure over the next 20 years adds up to a staggering US$14tn, the report found.
“Continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry is now quite clearly and quantifiably climate denial,” said Kretzmann.
Emissions from developed fossil fuel reserves, plus projected land use and cement manufacture
 Photograph: Rystad Energy, International Energy Agency (IEA), World Energy Council, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
The OCI report said existing oil and gas fields alone would exceed the carbon budget for 1.5C – which is a limit some small island states say would finish them and scientists believe would wipe out most coral reefs.
James Leaton, research director at the Carbon Tracker thinktank which did much to popularise the concept of “unburnable carbon”, said research by Carbon Tracker in 2015 showed coal demand was declining so quickly that current reserves would be enough. But the picture was less clear for oil and gas.
“There is clearly no need for new coal mines to be developed if we are to stay within a 2C carbon budget,” said Leaton. “Because oil and gas production declines over time in any particular well, this may fall faster than the level of oil and gas demand in [a 2C scenario], in which case some new production would be needed. Depending on how much carbon budget you allocate to each fossil fuel, and the speed of the energy transition assumed, the window for new oil and gas will also start to close.”
In the UK, the government has committed to opening its shale gas resources to fracking. Ken Cronin, chief executive of the industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said: “This report needs to look more deeply into the use of gas in a modern energy mix, looking at areas such as reformation of methane into hydrogen and carbon capture and storage, particularly for heating systems and potentially transport. The simple fact is that the best way to combat climate change is to remove coal ASAP and to do that you need to replace much of the coal capacity with gas.”
The OCI report did not take into account carbon capture and storage (CCS), which it argued is still at an “uncertain” stage of development. The International Energy Agency reported last week that CCS, which is fitted to emissions sources to trap carbon, was being rolled out at a rate of just one project every year.
Study author Greg Muttitt said it was imperative for governments to focus on shutting down new mines and fields before a sod was turned.
“Once an extraction operation is underway, it creates an incentive to continue so as to recoup investment and create profit, ensuring the product – the fossil fuels – are extracted and burned. These incentives are powerful, and the industry will do whatever it takes to protect their investments and keep drilling,” he said.
Ben Caldecott, director of the Sustainable Finance Programme at the University of Oxford Smith School said: “One direct implication of meeting climate targets are stranded upstream fossil fuel assets. These stranded assets need to be managed, particularly in terms of the communities that could be negatively impacted. Policymakers need to proactively manage these impacts to ensure a ‘just transition’.”
The report expands on a call made by former Kiribati president Anote Tong last year to stop opening new coal mines. China, the US and Indonesia, the world’s largest, third- and fifth-largest coal producers, have banned any new coal mines. In the US, the moratorium is only on public land.
But in Australia’s Galilee basin, there are nine proposed coal mines with a total lifetime emissions of 24Gt CO2. This includes the massive Adani Carmichael mine, which the Australian government has approved. The Australian Department of Environment would not comment on whether it had assessed the impact of the Carmichael mine on the global carbon budget.


  1. In my opinion, this is another article that shows the power of money. What I mean by saying that, is that it is clear that it's not safe to extract coal and oil. Even if its already discovered, the process of extracting those assets, damages the planet earth, making more CO2 gasses that encourage the global warming.
    It is said in the article "This exceeds the carbon limits that would most likely warm the world 1.5C and even over 2C above the pre-industrial average." Every single time there are extractions going on, there are gasses released which makes the global temperature increase. If the temperature increases the world is going to an end.
    But the problem is that industries are willing to make more and more money and do not seem to have a interest in behaving with the planet Earth, as showed in Australia that even if some countries have banned any new coal mines, there are still other places that want to take advantage of it and keep opening new ones.

    1. You're absolutely right! With the world being on the verge of a catastrophic climate change that companies how be pouring money into alternative energy sources or finding eco-friendly way releasing carbon fumes.

  2. The fact that Oil Change International is going to such great lengths to ensure the health and safety of our planet is astounding. I hope that for every dollar they've raised and invested in their efforts they are somehow reaping due rewards for such a great cause. Bringing up Australia's opening of six new coal mines despite the worldwide 2C budget is ultra relevant: bringing in new plans that counterdict efforts such as the 2C budget completely makes no sense to me. It is like the rest of the world agreed to limit their CO2 impact and Australia chose to ignore this nine times.
    Putting personal opinion behind it is clear that emissions are a serious issue demanding a continuing close eye on a global level. There is no question of if fossil fuels will run out, or if fossil fuels will damage the atmosphere and planet, but when. And when depends on firms worldwide to make respectable decisions that are not entirely influenced by personal financial gains. Not to mention the fact that mines that have already been open must at some point reduce operations or close, and this decision as well should not be made from a viewpoint of only personal financial gains.

  3. I have always known that fossil fuels have posed threats on the economy, but this article explained exactly how dangerous those threats are. Seeing how easily damage can be done by using coal and oil is alarming. One line that really stuck out to me was this: "existing oil and gas fields alone would exceed the carbon budget for 1.5C – which is a limit some small island states say would finish them and scientists believe would wipe out most coral reefs." Not only are existing fuels enough to damage the planet severely in ways like this, but people are still searching for new sources for fuel even though the existing amount is enough to wipe out certain areas of the world.

    Take Australia for example, where nine coal mines have been proposed. That is just one area of the world looking for ways to extract more energy in a economically damaging way. The more we extract these types of energy, the more things such as global warming could increase. The existing coal and oil sources we have already are damaging enough, do we really need to keep searching for more? If we don't, there are risks, but if we do, there could be even greater risks.

  4. Currently, the world's working coal mines, oil and gas fields contain enough carbon to drastically impact our climate for the worst. Already, the existing gas and oil fields are projected to exceed the carbon budget of 1.5C. Despite these facts, many people still want to extract even more fuels. "Continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry in now clearly and quantifiably climate denial." I couldn't agree more with this quote. Australia recently proposed nine coal mines. This is a greedy proposal motivated by money. Money being the reason behind many environmental problems seems to be a reoccurring theme. We will never make any progress towards improving our climate with actions like that. Climate change in my opinion is the most underestimated problem we currently face, and will bring an end to us if nothing is done about it.

  5. Even though the world’s working coal mines, oil, and gas fields already contain enough carbon to push us beyond the threshold for catastrophic climate change, we continue to expand coal mines and oil fields. Australia in particular has approved nine more coal mines. It is very strange to me that the Australian Department of Environment did not have a report which assessed the impact of these new coal mines on the global carbon budget. Assessing and reporting on the impact of these new coal mines shows how harmful creating them will be. In today’s world it is almost impossible to not consider the environmental effects of everything we do. This is especially true now that we know we must stay within a 2C carbon budget. China, the US, and Indonesia have banned the development of new coal mines in order to make sure we stay within our carbon budget. But, again, the existing coal mines, oil, and gas fields would already push us beyond this budget.
    The UK is using an alternative to coal mines called fracking. Even though they are using an alternative method, they are still hurting the environment and those who live near areas where fracking has occurred. Fracking affects the water of nearby areas as well. This is also a problem in the US. Fracking causes more problems related to water pollution and health issues, which is why we still need to push for wind/solar energy alternatives.

  6. Although the motivations behind people denying to act with regard to climate change are clear, projections like these make us acutely aware of how dangerous such denial really is.

    The fact that, as outline in the passage above, the world's working mines, oil, and gas fields contain already enough carbon to allow for existentially troubling levels in the atmosphere further calls into question our lackluster commitment to reform. These numbers highlight the implicitly catastrophic consequences, not least of which is economic, of our failure to sufficiently develop a green economy. It is also interesting to note how some poorly mitigated economic incentives seem to be creating an environment that is extremely conducive to economic peril.

  7. Learning that our current stock of oil, gas and coal including projects under current construction can release past our earth’s maximum capacity is shocking. The first question that comes up in my mind is “how are we going to combat this at the rate in which we are going?” Although demands for coal are going down, if I am not mistaken, production of oil has been on the uptrend despite the tanking prices. As far as I know, the oil industry has made minimal investments towards renewable energy which makes sense. They are not competing in the public’s eye. No consumer choses to go to one gas station over another because that particular gas station is doing something morally good. And oil is liquid money. Black gold. No one company is going to let it sit underground, dormant. But this is not just saving one species we’re talking about. This is about saving the planet. To hear that all the oil, gas and coal is enough to surpass the 1.5/2C limit is alarming. I am putting my best hope towards infrastructure like CSS and co2 filters and government intervention. I only hope that the OCI is incorrect when they state that the CSS is and an uncertain stage of development.

  8. I think that this problem with oil, coal and gas extraction and production has been around for some time now, as far as I can remember maybe close to a decade or more. People have been talking about global warming and such since early 2000's. Yes there are people that obviously want to do good by the world and save planet earth and create groups like world wide organizations however there are still this other half of people that is so desperate to just make an extra dollar not really caring about the well being of the planet earth and the direction that it is going in. So we have activists and greedy people budding heads. I personally do not think that oil or coal companies really will change much in the way they run their business and we will see a slow increase in the global temperature, further species endangered and disappear. In my opinion there is nothing we can do as one or as a couple hundred, this must be a world wide pact.

    Can Karako

  9. Is it safe to extract the coal and oil already discovered? I think the safety depends on how much fossil fuels people use. Nature has self cleaning capacity to clean greenhouse gases, which means that if people moderately extract fossil fuels and burn a few fuels, nature can clean the CO2 released by burning fuels. The article shows that the release of CO2 by burning all existing fuels will exceed the carbon limits. Exceeding the carbon limits will increase the world's temperature and change the climate. So, burning a few fuels is safety. However, people are greedy so that they cannot moderately extract fossil fuels.Coal and oil companies also want to make more profits.

  10. Climate change is a threat that I believe many of us do not take seriously enough. The media does not seem to be informing the public of the urgent threat that faces us, our families, and future generations. I think the only way that we can protect the earth is by finding alternative sources of energy and like former Kiribati president Antoe Tong suggested that no more new coal mines should be open. I think that more comprehensive study should be done taken into consideration all factors that relate to carbon emission. And so, with that more effective rules and regulations can be written and enforced to combat this threat. This article is extremely alarming to me I had no idea that,"fossil fuel companies contain vastly too much carbon to ever be burned safely." Which leaves to the question; How are we ever going to get rid of all that carbon?

  11. It is absolutely not safe to extract the coal and oil that is already discovered. It blows my mind that people actually think it's a good idea, to exceed the 1.5/2.0C limit, for the turn of oil profit? We need to invest and innovate to make access and efficiency of renewable resources common ground. Perhaps for every $1B in fossil fuel production, we could invest half of that amount in sourcing renewable energies. This would not only help the discovery of green resources but also deter oil companies from producing at harmful rates. The problem is we have people who care about the planet and we have people who want to maximize profit, and very rare is it for both of these traits to exist in an individual. We need stricter regulations and incentive to oil producers to not produce and extract the oil that is already discovered. It also begs the question, why are you willing to invest 100% in a resource that you know is not infinite? Why kill the chicken before it lays its eggs? The economy should balance responsibility to the Earth with financial gains, without letting go of the former.

  12. If all existing fuel were burned it would exceed the carbon limits. The current coal mine, and gas and oil fields are expected to push temperature to 1.5C or possibly “2C above the pre-industrial average.” Agencies have established limits, numbers, temperatures, and budgets to assisted in the reduction of expanding industries. As Bill McKibben’s tweet said, “There is new carbon math coming tomorrow that will change our understanding of where we stand.” There are predictions that there will be a fall in demand, and there is hope this will mean the decline in production. Governments have started transitioning towards green economics that promote growth while decreasing carbon emissions. Climate change is a dangerous reality, but added concerns don’t seem to be slowing down Earth’s deterioration. It is important that the world reduces its current high dependency on carbon. This is possible with support of green economics since it is built on a low-carbon model. Doing this is possible with steps in different industries from public and private organizations along with support from governments. One method is for the world to start moving towards carbon reduction is green agriculture, more specifically supporting policy measures that reward farmers for using environmentally friendly agricultural inputs and farming practices.

  13. It is clear that it’s not safe to extract oil and coal, even if more has been discovered. It will only cause more disruption in the environment causing major climate changes and global warming to unfold. Oil is used to make plastic products and our modern day farms cannot run without massive inputs of oil for fertilizer and pesticide manufacture. Its hard to get through our day, without some aspect of our daily being dependent on oil. Now what about natural gas? Likewise, it has many uses. It is one of the most popular fuels to heat our homes and cooking. Industries rely on natural gas for lighting, cooling, heating, and cooking. Natural gas can be used in the production of products such as fabric, plastics, fertilizer, and anti-freeze.
    We cannot doubt that developed countries and economies are very dependent on oil and natural gas. It is unfortunate that both oil and natural gas are not renewable fossil fuels because once burned they can’t be replaced during our life time, due to the fact they take many years to form. With that being said, there is one big question continuously lingering in our minds. That is, how much oil and natural gas remains for us to use? We have to keep in mind of how much of these energy sources are left in the ground and how much of the reserves can actually be extracted without overly disturbing the environment and costing way too money. So my general opinion is that we should not continue to dig up oil and coal for the safety of this economy and overall the planet.

  14. Due to the goal of maximizing profits, the deterioration of the planet is, almost always, disregarded. Even from this article, we can clearly see that this is the case. It is alarming to see the potential danger of extracting from already discovered coal mines and, gas and old fields. One part which clearly shows the unsafe side of this idea is are the horrible consequences of extraction itself. As the article states, coal mines, gas and oil fields contain enough carbon to make incredible changes in the climate. Also as shown in the graph, the temperatures could rise by 1.5C to 2C, or even above the pre-industrial average. This rise in carbon budget would be enough to seriously damage the environment. Even by being aware of this, how do big oil companies be fine with this idea? Are profits and seeing the return on their investments this important? more important than the world itself? The main frustration I have about this topic is that the people who do not care about our environment or act in certain ways which damage the environment cannot see the significant impact they have on it. Even though this might not affect them today, it will have a profound effect on the next generations.

  15. Even though there is no need for new coal mines to be developed, many countries are engaged in extracting coal and using it instead of better alternatives. I don't understand the usage of a fuel which rises carbon level so high that it has the power to destroy whole small islands and corals. It is apparent that we need to stop using coal for fuel. Even though gas is not as environmental friendly as renewable energy sources, it still has better effects on the environment, than coal can ever have.

    One example of a country which adopts this notion is China (even though 70% of their energy consumption comes from coal). China and Russia have recently made a $400 billion deal that helps China switch from coal usage to gas from Russia. A similar type of agreement took place between Turkey and Russia few years ago, but with a smaller budget. One thing that can be proven from this is that, it is not impossible to switch slowly from using coal to better alternatives. If many countries try to change their consumption of fuels to better options,preferably renewable energies, we can drastically decrease the risk of rising temperatures caused by fuels and also decrease the negative effect it has on the environment.

  16. I believe that genetically modified organisms are the worst thing that could have happened to the world. Not only numerical studies have shown and proven that the use and consumption of GMO's harm the land but also the human health as well. When a human consumes a GMO their body is unable to digest the proteins found in various plants leading to things like celiac disease, thyroid cancer, and the irritation of the intestines. It is not as easy to avoid the consumption of GMO's since animals like cows, chickens and even fish are being fed feed containing GMO's. Since there has been an increased consumption of GMO's the health of our nation is severely impacted. The environment is suffering because what used to be known as organic farming is less common and cannot be as cheaply practiced as the growing of GMO plants. I find it highly alarming that only three major companies are responsible for the distribution of seeds used to grow things such as corn, soy and sugar beets, and those companies and farmers that they sell their seeds to are subsidized by the government. In my opinion, the government, large corporations and distributors of food as well as the pharmaceutical companies are profiting at the expense of the human health and are unwilling to change anything becuase if they did, there would be no more money to be made. If the society became healthier or would not get sick with chronical and terminal diseases many doctors, pharmaceutical and insurance companies would see a large decrease in their profits. It is unethical, and bad for the environment. What strikes me interesting is that majority of studies that show that GMO's are bad and negatively impact the environment and the human society seem to be coming form other countries than the US and have been retracted and shamed. STAY AWAY FROM GMO's. They are bad news.