[Tourism] ENVIRONMENT: GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE : ENERGY: FOSSIL FUELS: Why We Need to Keep 80 Percent of Fossil Fuels in the Ground

 

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ENVIRONMENT: GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE :

ENERGY: FOSSIL FUELS:

Why We Need to Keep 80 Percent of Fossil Fuels in the Ground

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Why We Need to Keep 80 Percent of Fossil Fuels in the Ground

Posted on 9 March 2016 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yes! Magazine by Bill McKibben

Skeptical Science

http://www.skepticalscience.com/
why-need-keep-80-percent-fossil-fuels-in-ground.html

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A shorter URL for the above link:

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http://tinyurl.com/hq36ahu

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Physics can impose a bracing clarity on the normally murky world of politics. It can make things simple. Not easy, but simple.

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Most of the time, public policy is a series of trade-offs: higher taxes or fewer services, more regulation or more freedom of action. We attempt to balance our preferences: for having a beer after work, and for sober drivers. We meet somewhere in the middle, compromise, trade off. We tend to think were doing it right when everyones a little unhappy.

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But when it comes to climate change, the essential problem is not one groups preferences against anothers. Its notat bottomindustry versus environmentalists or Republicans against Democrats. Its people against physics, which means that compromise and trade-off dont work. Lobbying physics is useless; it just keeps on doing what it does.

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So here are the numbers: We have to keep 80 percent of the fossil-fuel reserves that we know about underground. If we dontif we dig up the coal and oil and gas and burn themwe will overwhelm the planets physical systems, heating the Earth far past the red lines drawn by scientists and governments. Its not we should do this, or wed be wise to do this. Instead its simpler: We have to do this.

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And we can do this. Five years ago, keeping it in the ground was a new idea. When environmentalists talked about climate policy, it was almost always in terms of reducing demand. On the individual level: Change your light bulb. On the government level: Put a price on carbon. These are excellent ideas, and theyre making slow but steady progress (more slowly in the United States than elsewhere, but thats par for the course). Given enough time, theyd bring down carbon emissions gradually but powerfully.

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Time, however, is precisely what we dont have. We pushed through the 400 parts per million level of CO2 in the atmosphere last spring; 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history, smashing the record set in  2014. So we have to attack this problem from both ends, going after supply as well as demand. We have to leave fossil fuel in the ground.

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Most of that coal and oil and gasmost of that moneyis concentrated in a few huge underground pools of carbon. Theres oil in the Arctic, and in the tar sands of Canada and Venezuela, and in the Caspian Sea; theres coal in Western Australia, Indonesia, China, and in the Powder River Basin; theres gas to be fracked in Eastern Europe. Call these the carbon bombs. If they go offif theyre dug up and burnttheyll wreck the planet. Of course, you could also call them money pits. Lots of moneythat coal and gas and oil may be worth $20 trillion. Maybe more.

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Because of that, there are people who say that the task is simply impossiblethat theres no way the oil barons and coal kings will leave those sums underground. And they surely wont do it voluntarily. Take the Koch brothers, for instance: Theyre among the largest leaseholders in Canadas tar sands and plan nearly $900 million in political spending during 2016, more than the Republicans or the Democrats. Because they wont be among the richest men on Earth anymore if that oil stays beneath the ground.

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But in fact its not a hopeless task. Weve begun to turn the tide, and in remarkably short order.

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The complete article may be read at the URL above.

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Sincerely,
David Dillard
Temple University
(215) 204 – 4584
jwne@temple.edu
http://workface.com/e/daviddillard

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