Three quarters of all known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
The warning came from scientists on the occasion of Earth Day yesterday, who are also calling on world leaders to sign up to an eight-point plan of action during the climate talks in Paris later this year.
The ‘Earth Statement’ urges governments to “act boldly” and commit to reaching a zero carbon society by mid-century, helping limit global warming to below 2°C.
However, it states the aim should be to stay “as far below it as possible” as even the 2°C warming “will cause significant damage and disruption”.
John Rockstrom, the statement’s lead author and Chair of the Earth League said: “It’s so frustrating because it’s the choice of moving down a business-as-usual route with devastating outcomes for humanity and at the same time, we have this almost unprecedented opportunity, we can transform the world economy to a fossil fuel-free one and moreover do it in a way that is security and health-wise more attractive.”
The Earth League includes 17 scientific research institutions around the world, including two in the UK.
The eight calls for action are:
> Limiting global warming to below 2°C
> Creating a zero-carbon society by 2050
> All 193 countries to develop “deep” decarbonisation plans, with richer nations helping poor
> 100% clean energy, with more climate innovation
> Support for climate adaptation in developing countries
> Safeguarding ecosystems such as forests and oceans that absorb CO2
> Climate finance for developing nations
According to the scientists, we are currently on a path to around 4C warning by 2100, which would create “unmanageable” environmental challenges. There is a one in 10 risk of going beyond 6C by 2100 if governments don’t act now – the equivalent of tolerating around 10,000 airplane crashes every day worldwide.