Global coal and natural-gas extraction threatens to increase fossil-fuel emissions by a fifth by 2020, jeopardizing efforts to stem rising temperatures, Greenpeace International said.
Planned expansion of fossil-fuel production in 14 parts of the world, including Australia, Iraq, the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic, would add an annual 6.34 gigatons (6.34 billion tons) of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2020, according to a report prepared for Greenpeace by consultants Ecofys.
“We are running out of time to prevent catastrophic climate change,” Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said today in an e-mailed statement. “The companies promoting, and the governments allowing, these massive climate threats must replace them with renewable energy right away.”
Burning fossil fuels already results in 31.2 gigatons of CO2 a year, according to the International Energy Agency. Global temperatures will increase by 3.6 degrees Celsius (6.5 Fahrenheit) if greenhouse gases rise to 37 gigatons in 2035, IEA projections show.
The United Nations has a target to contain temperature gains to 2 degrees Celsius compared with Industrial Revolution levels. Temperatures have already risen by about 0.8 of a degree. To stand a 50 percent chance of meeting that goal, more than two-thirds of estimated coal, gas and oil reserves must remain in the ground, unless carbon-capture and storage technology is successfully brought to market, the IEA says.
The 14 projects analyzed in the Greenpeace report would add 300 gigatons of CO2 to the atmosphere by 2050, Ecofys analysis shows. That compares with the maximum 884 gigatons that the IEA says can be emitted by the entire energy industry by then.
“It is more than likely that these new emissions will cause the global average temperature to soar to 4 degrees Celsius and quite possibly to 6 degrees Celsius of global warming,” the report's authors wrote.
The projects examined involve mining and oil companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM:US), Chevron Corp. (CVX:US), BP Plc (BP/), Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), Statoil ASA (STL), China Power Investment Corp., Rio Tinto Group, Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU:US), Anglo American Plc (AAL) and OAO Gazprom.
The planned ventures include a 408 million-ton increase in coal exports from Australia by 2025; a 620 million-ton expansion in coal production from China’s five northwestern provinces by 2015; and a U.S. plan to export 190 million tons more coal a year.
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