If burned, global fossil fuel reserves would release 3.5 trillion metric tons of carbon emissions, more than has been unleashed since the start of the Industrial Revolution, according to the Global Registry of Fossil Fuels, a new database launched by Carbon Tracker and Global Energy Monitor.
To keep warming to 1.5 degrees C, the stated goal of the Paris Agreement, countries can emit no more than 500 billion metric tons of carbon, but seven times that amount lies within reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas worldwide, according to the database. Fossils fuel reserves in the U.S. or Russia alone would, if burned, use up the remainder of the global carbon budget.
“Countries like to talk about emissions, they don’t want to talk about fossil fuels,” Mark Campanale, founder of Carbon Tracker, told The Guardian. “Emissions are from the use of fossil fuels, and you can’t do anything about emissions until you’ve actually come to a conclusion about what you’re going to do about fossil fuels.”
The new project includes data on more than 50,000 oil, gas, and coal deposits in 89 countries, which together account for 75 percent of global reserves. The project aims to highlight the risks of continued fossil fuel production and to help investors understand which fossil fuel reserves could ultimately become stranded assets as the world shifts to clean energy.
“We already have enough extractable fossil fuels to cook the planet,” Rob Jackson, a Stanford climate scientist not involved with the database, told the Associated Press. “We can’t afford to use them all — or almost any of them at this point.”