A first of its kind database to track the world’s fossil fuel production, reserves and emissions will be launched Monday to coincide with climate talks taking place at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The Global Registry of Fossil Fuels contains data from more than 50,000 oil, gas and coal fields in 89 countries. That covers 75% of global reserves, production and emissions, and is available for public use, a first for a collection of this size.
Until now, private data was available for purchase and analysis of the world’s use and reserves of fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency also maintains public records on oil, gas and coal, but focuses on the demand for those fossil fuels, while this new database looks at what remains to be burned.
The registry was developed by Carbon Tracker, a non-profit think tank that studies the impact of the energy transition on financial markets, and the Global Energy Monitor, an organization that monitors various energy projects around the world.
Companies, investors and scientists already have some degree of access to private data on fossil fuels. Mark Campanale, founder of Carbon Tracker, said he hopes the registry will empower groups to hold governments accountable, for example when they issue licenses to extract fossil fuels.
“Civil society citizens need to be more attentive to what governments plan to do in terms of licensing, both for coal and oil and gas, and actually start to challenge this licensing process,” Campanale told The UK Time News.
The release of the database and associated analysis of the data collected coincides with two pivotal sets of climate talks at the international level: the UN General Assembly in New York starting September 13, and COP27 in Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh in November. . Data like what’s released on the registry can weaponize environmental and climate groups to pressure national leaders to agree to stronger policies that result in fewer carbon emissions.
And we desperately need carbon reduction, Campanale said.
In their analysis of the data, the developers found that the United States and Russia still have enough fossil fuel in the ground that has not yet been tapped to exhaust the world’s remaining carbon budget. That’s the remaining carbon the world can afford to emit before a certain amount of warming occurs, in this case 1.5 degrees Celsius. It also shows that these reserves would generate 3.5 trillion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all the emissions produced since the industrial revolution.
“We already have enough recoverable fossil fuels to cook the planet. We can’t afford to use them all – or almost all of them right now. We don’t have time to build new things in old ways,” said Rob Jackson, a Stanford University climate scientist who was not involved with the database.
“I like the emphasis on transparency in fossil fuel production and reserves, right down to specific projects. That is a unique aspect of the work.”
Jackson compared the global carbon budget to a bathtub.
“You can only run water so long before the tub overflows,” he said. When the bath is about to overflow, he said, governments can turn off the tap (reducing greenhouse gas emissions) or open the bath’s drain more (removing carbon from the atmosphere).
The database shows we have far more carbon than we need as a global community, Campanale said, and more than enough to overflow the bathtub and overflow the bathroom in Jackson’s analogy. So investors and shareholders should hold decision-makers at the world’s largest oil, gas and coal companies accountable when approving new investments in fossil fuel extraction, he said.
Campanale said the hope is that the investment community, “which ultimately owns these companies,” will use the data to challenge the investment plans of companies that still plan to expand oil, gas and coal projects.
“Companies like Shell and Exxon, Chevron and their shareholders can use the analysis to really try to push the companies to go in a very different direction.”
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