June 13 News: Leave Two-Thirds Of Fossil Fuels In The Ground, Says International Energy Agency

(Credit: Anupma Prakash)

Two-thirds of all proven fossil fuel reserves will have to be left unburned if global warming will be held to two degrees Celsius, according to the International Energy Agency. [Irish Times]

About two-thirds of all proven reserves of oil, gas and coal will have to be left undeveloped if the world is to achieve the goal of limiting global warming at two degrees Celsius, according to the chief economist at the International Energy Agency.

Addressing participants in the latest round of UN climate talks in Bonn, Fatih Birol said this should be an “eye-opener” for pension funds with significant investments in the energy sector — particularly in coal — as well as for ratings agencies.

He predicted coal would be hardest hit in the “unburnable carbon” scenario, followed by oil and gas. “We cannot afford to burn all the fossil fuels we have. If we did that, it [average global surface temperature] would go higher than four degrees.

“Globally, the direction we are on is not the right one. If it continues, the increase would be as high as 5.3 degrees — and that would have devastating effects on all of us.”

Instead of ignoring it, energy companies had a “crucial” role in confronting the challenge of climate change. “We think the energy sector cannot afford to be isolated — not just for moral reasons, but also for the business perspective.”

The Midwest got slammed by high winds, large hail, and rain from a long string of thunderstorms that spun off some tornadoes, and the storm cell has now reached the Mid-Atlantic. [New York Times]

The White House is receiving criticism for blocking appliance, lighting and building efficiency standards through regulatory review delays at OMB. [New York Times]

American oil production jumped 14 percent last year to 8.9 million barrels per day — the largest increase in history, and the largest increase in the world. [Wall Street Journal]

A House committee sent three bills to the floor yesterday that would all vastly increase (mostly oil and gas) energy development on public lands. [The Hill]

Alberta’s chief regulator has waived penalties for Canadian oil sands producers after they failed to meet promised targets for toxic waste reduction. [WSJ]

Sen. David Vitter is still making bogus demands about transparency as the reason he and other GOP Senators are holding up the nomination of Gina McCarthy to lead the EPA. [The Hill]

Corporate sustainability spending will rise from $34.5 billion last year to $43.8 billion in 2017, according to a new report. And, according to the report, this is still not fast enough to build genuinely sustainable business models. [Business Green]

Cuba’s government is completely rethinking coastal development in response to alarming rising sea projections. [Boston Globe]

The United States’ emissions have fallen to their lowest level since the mid-1990s. [New Scientist]

One of several ongoing international climate negotiations in the run-up to the Paris Summit in 2015 just stalled out. [Business Green]

Research suggests that harvesting forests releases more carbon than previously thought, thanks to deforestation’s disturbance of the soil. [Carbon Brief]

A form of geoengineering in which iron is introduced into the ocean to encourage carbon-consuming algae blooms could backfire, new research shows. [Science Daily]

Solar Energy International is starting up a scholarship plan in response to interest in solar jobs among military veterans. [Clean Technica]

This may disrupt the Congressional Baseball Game scheduled for tonight. [Roll Call]

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have written a joint opinion piece urging action on climate change. [ABC]

35 Responses to June 13 News: Leave Two-Thirds Of Fossil Fuels In The Ground, Says International Energy Agency

  1. Sasparilla says:

    Nice to see that pronouncement from the IEA. It’ll be interesting to see where the IEA pronouncements and European bankers (some of whom have publicly said similar things) go.

    While U.S. investment banks appear to be all in on destroying the planet supporting the Exxon’s and the Koch’s – once serious damage starts happening to stock prices of fossil fuel companies it will start to become a self reinforcing process as investors run away from them because of their declining value.

    Here’s Exxon stock (choose 5 years in graphic):

    Here’s Peabody (coal – choose 5 years in graphic):

  2. Sasparilla says:

    That’s a great site.

  3. Sasparilla says:

    This goes along with the Jet Stream being stuck diving down and around the midwest nearly the entire time since Feb – bringing the cold air we’ve still been getting (just up north of Chicago I think we’ve only had a couple of days with high’s in the 80’s as this fixed jet stream dip has poured this cooler air over us).

    We’re getting to see another surprise effect of executing our grand greenhouse gas experiment with the atmosphere of our planet.

  4. Raul M. says:

    Making decisions based on the effects upon seven generations hence seems outdated based on current revelations because with current observations of world environment, the considerations project thousands of years as the overage of GHG’s, as well, project thousands of years. Concern for seven generations into the future should be amended to consideration in proportion to the length of time it will take natural systems to return to GHG levels in which humans made progress.

  5. BobbyL says:

    It is not a good sign that some time after the chief economist for the IEA spoke in Bonn about leaving two-thirds of the carbon in the ground the climate talks collapsed

  6. prokaryotes says:

    Russian climate negotiator brands UNFCCC rules row “nonsense” – See more at:

  7. prokaryotes says:

    First off the Russian side does not use a clear language. And secondly why not just make an agreement without them in the first place?

  8. BobbyL says:

    I believe Russia is the fourth biggest CO2 polluter behind China, the US, and India. It would seem to be close to impossible if not impossible to reduce emissions enough if Russia was not included in an agreement. Also, it would probably raise all kind of concerns about fairness in economic competition.

  9. Gingerbaker says:

    How do you think the world is going to keep 2/3 of all fossil fuels in the ground?

    By reducing the rate at which we burn it? Nope. It’ll still be sold to the highest bidder.

    By making energy more expensive with a carbon tax? Nope. Still plenty of buyers – only the poor will be disenfranchised.

    The way we keep all that fossil fuel in the ground is to make green energy cheaper than fossil fuel. That means subsidizing green energy, not selling it at market rates.

    And IF we are going to subsidize (pay for it with government money) green energy, then should we not make sure the system that produces that green energy is as cost-efficient as possible?

    And doesn’t that imply that the green energy system be non profit? A public utility?

  10. SecularAnimist says:

    Gingerbaker wrote: “doesn’t that imply that the green energy system be non profit? A public utility?”

    The inherently decentralized and ubiquitous and abundant nature of wind and solar energy means that there is not and will not be any such thing as “THE green energy system”.

    There will be MILLIONS of “green energy systems”. Some large, some small, some owned by for-profit utilities, some by publicly-owned municipal utilities, some by nonprofit community organizations, and a great many owned by individual homeowners, businesses, and other end-users.

    The business models for, and the appropriate public policy measures to promote (for example) building industrial-scale offshore wind turbine farms or concentrating solar thermal power plants on public lands, are entirely different from those for deploying rooftop PV on millions of residential and commercial rooftops.

  11. Joan Savage says:

    In yesterday’s Mother Jones:

    TV Weathermen and Climate Scientists Kiss and Make Up
    Could meteorologists be shedding their reputation as climate deniers?
    —By Chris Mooney

  12. Joan Savage says:

    h/t to Climate Portals (FB page)

  13. Michael Pope says:

    Ryan Koronowski is quite right in his assessment that at least 66% of known fossil fuel deposits should remain in the ground if average surface global temperature is to be kept to 2°C above the pre-industrial.

    Does anyone seriously believe that coal and oil companies will be compliant with this unless compelled to by law or gunpoint? Does anyone believe that politicians will have the guts to pass required legislation? Does anyone believe that average temperatures will be held to 2°C above the pre-industrial or that dangerous global warming will be avoided?

    I don’t.

  14. Endofmore says:

    To keep banging on about leaving carbon fuels in the ground is to miss the point
    our entire ‘industrial economy’ functions on energy consumption.
    That is what we do, and have done for the last 250 years. For mankind, that is now our normality.
    We don’t have any other way of supporting our global infrastructure. “Alternatives’ are just a myth to divert our attention from the reality of our future, they will never replace hydrocarbons.
    We build machines, dig up hydrocarbons and burn them in those machines. Our employment depends on it, without that fuelburning we do not have employment. If we do not have employment then our entire economic infrastructure collapses, literally. So we will continue to burn fuel even though we are fully aware of what it is doing to the planet. The top priority of the coalminer is to keep his job, because he is unlikely to find any other, even though he knows that coal is poisoning the air he breathes. (And I come from four generations of coalminers). We can see that the miner’s job is specifically linked to the extraction of energy from the earth, but the well being of all of us is directly linked to hydrocarbon consumption. Everything you own and use has a component of carbon based energy embedded within it; our lives are now so complex that we cannot extract ourselves from that situation. To point out a simple example, remove (hydrocarbon based) insulation from wiring, and we go back to the stone age. There are millions of other examples of how hydrocarbon products keep our civilisation afloat.
    There is a commonly held delusion that we can enter an era of gentle downsizing with only minor inconvenience. It isn’t going to be like that. Oil gas and coal keeps us alive, if we can’t get hold of fuel there will be a struggle for survival that is going to be very unpleasant indeed.
    The last two centuries seemed to prove that there would always be more and growth could be infinite. Except that our infinite demands have now smacked into the wall of finite resources.
    So we will go on burning and burning, until we no longer have the means to do so.

  15. BobbyL says:

    I don’t either although I think the main obstacle is the impasse at the international level where countries seem to be constantly fighting over who pays what and who does what. The discussion should begin now about what comes next after 2C as this Guardian article argues

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You’re pulling my leg, surely. Being worried about ‘fairness in economic competition’!!!?? Who? Where? When? Do me a favour! This is a question concerning life and death for billions, or do you not really understand the reality of our predicament? If we allow Russia to sabotage climate talks because it is ‘the fourth biggest’ polluter, then we might as well slit our wrists now, and get it over with. I prefer Super’s bellicose defeatism to the supine, willingly helpless, type.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    What comes after two degrees Celsius is death, mass death, or, possibly, universal death.

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    In my opinion that is too defeatist. We retain a slim chance of survival, but the economic system must change, from one based on great and ever growing inequality, to one of radical egalitarianism, and from one based on eternal growth, to a steady-state system, with a determined plan to downsize global population humanely to one or two billion. In other words the capitalists must be disempowered, and humanity liberated.

  19. Endofmore says:

    I think it’s defeatist too, but I’m coming at this from the point of view of human nature. (It’s called genetic force) our genes force us to thrive on inequality, or literally die in the attempt.
    Just saying ‘we must’ ignores the simple fact that ‘must’ implies force. Humanity will rush along its current path until a stronger force either stops us or deflects us.
    Throughout history, the notion of ‘radical egalitarianism’ has permeated our ideology, the problem with that is, it requires exertion of force by individuals and there are differing opinions about what that means. If you do that, conflict is 100% certain, because that individual is inflicting his opinion on others, invariably with the assistance of people of like mind.
    That means dictatorship, which we all reject. I don’t need to go into history to describe what that means.
    We cannot on the other hand have infinite growth, neither can we sustain 9 billion people. The parents of the next 2 billion are alive now. only total dictatorship can stop them breeding.
    There is no way of ‘disposing’ of 7 billion within the time window we have left, (40 years max), certainly in any humane fashion. Inhumanely is another matter of course. Nature itself might have other ideas on how to do it of course, but I don’t think wishing has much to do with it.

  20. Endofmore says:

    and you called ME defeatist….lol

  21. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Our new (since the advent of economic rationalism), global experiment of privatizing the means to the common good has failed totally and we are now seeing the results. We have no option now but to return to the old idea that govt is is for looking after its citizens, ME

  22. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Down here we have a huge mixture of schemes, public and private of all descriptions. Business models come and go but it is pretty clear here that what is operating is ‘do what you can’. Anything that makes it easier to go renewable is to be applauded but there is no denying that decentralized systems are less prone to catastrophic collapse. Govt interventions have played a major role in promoting centralized and decentralized, ME

  23. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Our equality is a product of our modern age which is based on the first design principle of ranking people in a dominant hierarchy. Before the industrial revolution, we had people living in cooperation and looking after their land, not ripping it off. It’s not human nature, ME

  24. Merrelyn Emery says:

    The second word is supposed to be inequality, ME

  25. Endofmore says:

    I have to disagree
    prior the the industrial revolution, and for some time after it, people lived on the land, but barely kept themselves above starvation level, while the dominant heirarchy lived in comparative comfort and plenty. That’s why great mansions could exist powered by the labour of armies of servants
    What was happening in fact was that the ‘dominant heirarchy’ were draining the energy resources (ie the muscle power) of the peasantry, and selling it in the form of food surplus and other agricultural produce. They didnt ‘rip off’ the land itself because they lacked the means to do so.
    Here in the UK the original feudal landowners became the great coal owners, because they owned the resources under their land as well. they ripped off the land as soon as the means became ailable to do it. They were paid a fixed price per ton extracted, again they were extracting money from the muscle power of miners as well as the energy of coal.

  26. Brooks Bridges says:

    An Inconvenient Truth (yes, Al Gore) is that it’s BS that we MUST burn fuel at current rates to avoid economic collapse:

    It is technically feasible for Americans to reduce our emissions by huge amounts within a year or two and suffer ONLY inconvenience.

    Just two examples. I cut my home heating/cooling by more than half for less than a kitchen remodel. Empire State Building cut 33% and pay back was 3 or 4 years.
    1) So millions of homes and businesses could be better weatherproofed FAST. Can’t afford it? $50 billion a year spent on pets this year. How much on cable TV?
    2) Gas rationing, and/or two to a car mandate, etc. OMG – I might have to coordinate my traveling in a car with another human being. How incredibly inconvenient.

    In both cases only people losing money are fossil fuel companies. Most people would, after a few years, have more disposable income.

  27. Mark E says:

    Doesn’t oil/gas have an even greater chokehold on Russian politics than in the US? (I know, hard to imagine it could be more monopolized elsewhere)

  28. Mark E says:

    This *is* the essential question, isn’t it?

    Under capitalism, the only way to really do this is for the government to “take” that private property and compensate the owners. (called “Eminent domain”)

    That ain’t gonna happen, though, when the govt keeps leasing public lands for fossil fuel development. (See MATT 7:4-5)

    Some Gandhians have been trying to shut down whorehouses in India by shaming those who enter. Vigils, leafletting, etc. We should think about doing the same thing at SUV dealerships, and gas stations.

  29. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Not ME (or you)- Superfellow. I’m ‘defeatist’ only in imagining that we need a miracle to survive, and the total upending of our evil, destructive, economic/social system. That appears a remote possibility, because the beneficiaries are actively planning for Collapse, when all that surveillance and spying will come in handy to crush resistance. I’d prefer to be called deeply pessimistic than defeatist, because a miracle might yet happen.

  30. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yes, you had a class system but as long as the peasantry did what was required of the, they could organize themselves. They worked mainly as groups of equals. This changed with the introduction of the factory system and that’s what we got stuck with, ME

  31. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Your absolute genetic determinism is, in my opinion, way too dogmatic and extreme. You’ve been Dawkinised. Read a little Sheldrake for a cure by ingestion of nearly equally extreme, but considerably more appealing, ideas.

  32. Endofmore says:

    If I could find some kind of alternative purpose for humanity in general, other than eating and procreation, then I could agree with you. Humankind is merely a big brained primate with the unique skill of making fire and a destructive habit of creating gods on whom he can blame his misfortunes and demand miracles.
    We have eaten and bred ourselves to the point of oblivion