Right to life and cumulative emissions

Taking recent climate science seriously calls into question the whole idea of ‘unconventional’ extraction. Known conventional reserves contain twice what it will take to tip us over the edge into runaway climate change. If we are to avoid such a scenario, and a potential extinction event for mankind, then, as leading climate scientist James Hansen puts it, ‘we  must rapidly phase out coal emissions, leave unconventional fossil fuels in the ground, and not go after the last drops of oil and gas. In other words, we must move as quickly as possible to the post-fossil fuel era of clean energies.’1

Tyndall Centre climate scientist Kevin Anderson concurs, ‘the only responsible action with regard to shale gas, or any “new” unconventional fossil fuel, is to keep it in the ground — at least until there is a meaningful global emissions cap forcing substitution. In the absence of such an emissions cap, and in our energy hungry world, shale gas will only be combusted in addition to coal — not as a substitution, as many analysts have naively suggested.’2

1     Hansen, J, (2009) Storms of my Grandchildren: the truth about the coming climate catastrophe and our last chance to save humanity, Bloomsbury: London, p.289.

2     Yale Environment, 360 Forum: Just How Safe Is ‘Fracking’ of Natural Gas?, Opinion 20th June 2011.