Atmosphere will respond to the laws of physics

Financial Times, 8 April 2016:

Martin Wolf’s perceptive column “Fossil fuel power plants will be stranded” (April 6) demonstrates that the world is rapidly running out of options.

We already possess conventional fossil fuel reserves equivalent to three times our carbon budget, so to keep below 2C of warming, we need to leave 80 per cent of coal, 50 per cent of gas and one-third of oil reserves in the ground. Developing further resources, in the shape of tar sands, shale oil or shale gas, is largely self-defeating as increased production in one country will require an equivalent reduction elsewhere.

This paradigm has become even more challenging since Paris which lowered the global warming limit from 2 to 1.5C. To have a 50 per cent chance of staying within this new limit, the remaining carbon budget is only 140bn tonnes, which will be spent by 2030 if current emission rates stay static, and sooner if they continue to increase.

Politicians will continue to obfuscate and delay, but the atmosphere will only respond to the laws of physics which are uncompromising and potentially lethal for most species on Earth, including our own.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Chair, Help Rescue the Planet,
Stoke Poges, Bucks, UK

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