UN orders phaseout of ‘fossil fuels’ by 2100

Offshore rig•Urges govts to cut carbon dioxide emissions further

05 November 2014 –
IN its latest assessment of global warming which was published Monday, the United Nations (UN) through its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the use of fossil fuels must be phased out by the end of the century.

The IPCC’s Synthesis Report was published on Sunday in Copenhagen, after a week of intense debate between scientists and government officials.

The IPCC issued stark predictions that continued greenhouse gas emissions would cause “severe, pervasive and irreversible” impacts around the world. It urged governments to cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 70 per cent by 2050 and asked them to be less reliant on mining for fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.

The authors said fossil fuels would need to be phased out completely from electricity production by 2100 unless new technology could safely bury carbon dioxide from power stations underground to prevent it from being released into the atmosphere.

At the presentation of the IPCC Report, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, said he hoped it would help world leaders decide how to tackle climate change when they meet in Peru for a UN climate summit next month.

He said: “Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in the message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.

“There is a myth that climate action will cost heavily. But inaction will cost much more.”

According to Wikipedia, fossil fuels are fuels formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms. The age of the organisms and their resulting fossil fuels is typically millions of years, and sometimes exceeds 650 million years. Fossil fuels contain high percentages of carbon and include coal, petroleum, and natural gas.

A greenhouse gas (sometimes abbreviated GHG) is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.

In Nigeria, oil prices have been in a free fall since June after peaking at $115 per barrel. However, the price has steadily and consistently declined over the last four months to about $86 per barrel on Friday.

It is feared that there is very high likelihood of the prices plummeting further to about $80 per barrel before enjoying some semblance of stability.

Indeed, the sudden drop in crude oil prices has attracted mixed feelings. While many Western countries have been rejoicing over the development, which has resulted in lower pump price of fuel for their citizens, the reverse is the case in countries that depend almost exclusively on oil revenues as they have been experiencing a reduction in earnings.

In Nigeria, the plummeting price of oil has exacerbated the dwindling revenues occasioned by the rising theft of the product the country is battling with. This has resulted in a decline in what accrues to all the tiers of governments from the Federation Account and already some states are finding it difficult to pay salaries.

Meanwhile, critics warn that growing reliance upon renewable energy to replace fossil fuels would increase the risk of outages in Nigeria. They also said that consumers would see their energy bills soaring to pay for the new technologies outlined in the report.

The report comes at a time when Nigeria is already facing a growing risk of electricity blackouts as the country attempts to switch to renewable forms of energy.

Also, the BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy published in mid-2013 says that the world has in reserves 861 billion tonnes of coal, 187 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, and 1669 billion barrels of crude oil. These numbers seem to be huge at a glance, but taking into account today’s level of extraction proves reserves of coal will be exhausted in 109 years. The last cubic meter of natural gas will be extracted in 2068. And by 2065 there will be no reserves of crude oil.

Chairman of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, warned that the cost of delaying action to tackle climate change would be ‘proportionally higher’.

Pachauri said: “The world needs a combination of adaptation and mitigation. We will not be able to adapt to the impacts of climate change if we don’t do anything to tackle

the root of the problem. The impacts will exceed our capacity to cope with them.

“In the absence of carbon capture and storage then power generation from fossil fuels would need to be phased out by the end of this century if we want to limit temperature increases to two degree Celsius (2C) .”

The IPCC report says that fossil fuels could continue to be used beyond 2100 in conjunction with carbon capture and storage, which traps and buries carbon dioxide gas in power station chimneys However, the technology is yet to be tested on a large scale and is seen as being an expensive solution.

Dr. Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Forum think tank set up by former chancellor Lord Lawson, said phasing out of fossil fuels could have a major impact on the British and European economy.

He said: “Europe is already hurting from green policies as they are having a detrimental impact on industry and energy costs.

“There is nothing to replace the reliance on cheap fossil fuels in many parts of the world, which is why there is never going to be a realistic global agreement on cutting carbon dioxide emissions.”

Until now, the use of fossil fuels has continued to raise serious environmental concerns. The burning of fossil fuels produces around 21.3 billion tonnes (21.3 gigatonnes) of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, but it is estimated that natural processes can only absorb about half of that amount, so there is a net increase of 10.65 billion tonnes of atmospheric carbon dioxide per year (one tonne of atmospheric carbon is equivalent to 44/12 or 3.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide).

Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases that enhance radiative forcing and contributes to global warming, causing the average surface temperature of the Earth to rise in response, which the vast majority of climate scientists agree will cause major adverse effects.

A global movement towards the generation of renewable energy is therefore under way to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

An economist at the University of Sussex, Prof. Richard Tol, who was one of the contributors to the IPCC, said the report was ‘alarmist’.

Earlier this year he withdrew his name from the final draft of the report in protest at what he believes is biased selection of the authors and evidence presented.

He said: “It is a long way until 2100 but carbon capture storage at a scale large enough to make a serious dent in emissions strikes me as optimistic. It would require too many pipelines, too much storage.”

The new IPCC Synthesis Report is intended as a summary of three previous reports compiled over a five-year period to assess the latest evidence on climate change and its impacts.

It is expected to act as a guide for government officials and policy makers as they begin intense negotiations to set new limits on carbon emissions at a UN summit in Paris next year.

The report suggests a number of options that could help the world adapt and tackle climate change, including saying that many people will have to change their diets and grow new types of food.

It warns that methane emissions from livestock and greenhouse gas emissions from fertiliser contribute considerably to global warming.

Although it does not go into detail about what changes to diet should be, climate change experts have previously suggested eating vegetarian food, growing crops that can cope with more extreme weather and alternative sources of protein including insects.

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