To coincide with this year’s Earth Day, a group of globally recognised scientists and economists have issued a statement calling for three quarters of the world’s remaining reserves of fossil fuels to remain buried.
The group, known as the Earth League, which includes the economists, Nicholas Stern and Jeffrey Sachs and climate scientist and advisor to Angela Merkel, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, issued what they called the “Earth Statement.”
“2015 is a critical year for humanity”, the statement began. “Our civilization has never faced such existential risks as those associated with global warming, biodiversity erosion and resource depletion … Decisions made in this single year will be the legacy of our generation.”
Arguing that “a good climate future is still within reach” and that dangerous climate change can be avoided, but that will happen only if we reach a “zero-carbon society by mid-century or shortly thereafter, thereby limiting global warming to below 2°C as agreed by all nations in 2010.”
Stressing that this is not a trajectory of economic pain, “but of economic opportunity, progress and inclusiveness” and one that it is “too good to be missed”, the group issued an eight point plan with actions that need to be agreed in Paris later this year.
These include a commitment to keep emissions below 2°C, and possibly even lower. However the world is currently on course for 4°C warming by 2100, which they argue “would create unmanageable environmental challenges.”
The primary way to avoid runaway climate change is simple: to stop burning fossil fuels. As the Earth League point out: “The remaining global carbon budget – the limit of what we can still emit in the future – must be well below 1000 Gt CO2 to have a reasonable chance to hold the 2°C line”
As we have already emitted around 2000 Gt CO2 since the beginning of industrialization, they argue that “respecting the global carbon budget means leaving at least three quarters of all known fossil fuel reserves in the ground.”
In order to do this, we need to radically transform the global economy and phase out fossil fuels by 2050, with deep decarbonisation starting not tomorrow, but today.
As Oil Change International and others have been arguing for years, they agree that “Fossil fuel subsidies should be removed urgently, and investment should be redirected to spark a global renewable energy revolution”.
The group also called on global leaders to “unleash a wave of climate innovation for the global good, and enable universal access to the solutions we already have,” including realising “new scales and sources of climate finance for developing countries to enable our rapid transition to zero-carbon, climate-resilient societies.”
Johan Rockström, the statement’s lead author, who is Chair of the Earth League, and Executive Director of Stockholm Resilience Centre, said: “From a scientific perspective, 2015 is a decisive moment. The window to navigate ourselves free from a ‘beyond 2C future’ is barely open. It’s the last chance to navigate ourselves towards a desired future.”
The Obama Administration is making noise about climate change to coincide with Earth Day, but it remains to be seen how this transcends to the required political will in the run up to Paris. Later today, Barack Obama will be visiting the Florida Everglades to see for himself how the region is at risk from climate change: “Climate change can no longer be denied or ignored” he said during his weekly address to the nation.
Secretary of State, John Kerry, is also asking “Americans and concerned citizens everywhere to crank up the volume” on climate change. “Educate others in your community. Take action and demand action on climate change. Make our message echo around the equator and from pole to pole. Help us engineer a truly global transition to clean energy.”