the 425 “climate bombs” that could destroy the fight against global warming

The Red Hill project in Australia, Montney Play or Christina Lake in Canada, the Hongshaquan mine in China, that of Hambach and Garzweiler in Germany… This list will largely determine the future of the planet. For the first time, researchers have identified and located the world’s largest fossil fuel extraction projects. They also gave them a name: “carbon bombs” or “climate bombs,” which they define as coal, oil, and gas infrastructure that could emit more than a billion tons of CO2 over their operating life.

After these works published Thursday, May 12 in the magazine energy policy, the world now has 425 “climate bombs” in operation or planned, spread across 48 countries. If all were used at their full lifetime, their potential emissions combined would represent twice the global carbon budget – i.e. the emissions cap – not to be exceeded in hopes of reducing global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial times to keep epoch. Enough to defeat the goals of the Paris climate agreement and the fight against climate change.

Also read: Climate: There is a one in two chance of the +1.5°C limit being exceeded in the next five years, the UN says

Closing the ‘carbon bombs’: a priority

In recent years, scientists as well as the largest international organizations have made clear the need to phase out coal, oil and gas. “Major emitters must now drastically reduce their emissionsUnited Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated on May 11. It means accelerating the end of our dependence on fossil fuels. »

However, the question of fossil fuels, which are responsible for 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, has not been the focus of climate negotiations until now, recalls Kjell Kühne, doctoral student at the University of Leeds in Great Britain, first author of the study and also one of the founders of the campaign leave it in the ground (“Leave it in the ground”), which started in late 2011. COP26, held in Scotland in autumn 2021, was the first-ever where countries collectively committed to reducing coal use.

Also read (2021): Article reserved for our subscribers Climate: COP26 produces half-hearted agreement

“Conversations about what level of greenhouse gas emissions to achieve or what percentage reductions to achieve can be very abstract, remarks Kjell Kuehne. The idea of ​​“climate bombs” is much more tangible and can help knowing how to make a significant and concrete impact in each country. » Germany, for example, has two “carbon bombs,” which are two open-pit lignite mines that should be closed as a priority, say the study’s authors. Overall, 40% of the 425 projects and infrastructures in 2020 had not yet started production.

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