Why Just Stop Oil have no sense of proportion

In an article at Conservative Women, I believe Paul Homewood vastly understates the insignificance of keeping new discoveries of UK oil & gas in the ground. We need to look at the accepted numbers.

In the 2014 UNIPCC AR5 WG3 report it was estimated that 1100 GtCO2 from 2011 was needed to reach the dreaded 2°C of warming. McGlade & Ekins 2015 (DOI: 10.1038/nature14016) estimated that known fossil fuel reserves were 3 times this. On quick search on the internet in 2017 I found that potential fossil fuel sources are a number of times these known reserves.

The oil & gas licences cover trivial amounts of global fossil fuels available. Using the BP’s measure of proven reserves, I did a quick conversion to representative CO2 emissions, then divided it into major locations. Total emissions figures were up to 20% lower than McGlade & Ekins due to (a) different reserves figures & (b) Not allowing for higher emitting fossil fuel sources like oil from Canadian tar sands or German lignite coal, reproduced in figure 1. Still, given the unequal global distribution of fossil fuel reserves

Figure 1 – Estimates of the approximate potential CO2 emissions from proven fossil reserves using data from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2016. These figures may understate coal.

In 2018, it was projected that the emissions to meet the 1.5°C targets were equivalent to a straight line reduction in emissions to zero between 2020 and 2050. That is producing 15 years of 2020 emissions in a 30 year period, or about less than 13 years starting January 2024. Using the BPs estimates of production & proven reserves for 2019, there are about 50 years of oil, 50 years of gas and 132 years of coal. That means leaving >70% of oil, >70% of gas and >90% of coal reserves in the ground. How significant is the UK in this. It is well out of the top 20 countries in oil, gas and coal reserves, so would not have appeared in Figure 1 with far more countries itemised. Using the 2019 estimated reserve figures the UK had 0.16% of oil, 0.094% of gas and 0.0024% of coal reserves. Overall UK fossil fuel reserves in terms of potential emissions are less than 1 part is a 1000 of the global total. The new oil & gas licences may increase the UK reserves, but it is highly unlikely to significantly increase the global share.

If the activists were in reality concerned about stopping dangerous climate change, then they would be trying to persuade Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela etc. to all leave their considerable fossil fuel reserves on the ground. This is aside from Western countries such as USA, Canada, Australia, Germany & Poland.

Just Stop Oil have literally no sense of proportion. I have no doubt they are sincere in their beliefs. But their policy demands are in no way connected to their beliefs in some sort of impending climate apocalypse.

Kevin VS Marshall

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