New Scientist: Climate Change, brought to you by Statoil
New Scientist magazine are running a special feature on climate change this week. Five years on and climate change is looking worse than almost anyone projected. It’s a reasonable article, sure, there is the expected sensationalism (linking Greenland with >1m sea level rise by 2100 for example), but the general message is on the money. From Arctic sea ice through extreme weather, food production and especially human emissions the situation is deteriorating rapidly. Prof. Paul Valdes of the University of Bristol was quoted “Our emissions are not slowing, that’s the most scary aspect of our future.”. Echoing the message From University of Manchester’s Prof Kevin Anderson speaking in Bristol a few weeks ago.
The issue here is that as I read this article, on the New Scientist website, it’s surrounded by no fewer than three large adverts from Statoil. The magazine, possible even this very article is in front of me thanks to Statoil’s marketing budget – which presumably works, or they wouldn’t do it – facilitating their business. And their business in this case? Discovering and extracting new oil reserves. They are advertising for staff with the tag lines “We are looking for engineers who want to go longer, deeper and colder” and “Our megaprojects are waiting for you”. I can only assume they are talking about frontier activities, deep water or Arctic drilling.
Two problems; firstly New Scientist are part of the problem not the solution if they continue to support activities like this, providing their readership to Statoil’s HR department. Secondly, the very activity of prospecting for further hydrocarbon reserves is bankrupt. In the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2012, published this month, they state that total carbon in known fossil fuels reserves equates to 2860 Gt CO2 if combusted, going on to say less than 900 Gt can be emitted up to 2050 for +2°C world (what they actually mean is a ~50% change of warming being less than 2°C). To put this into context, the World Meteological Organization’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin (published this week) states 375 billion tonnes of carbon (equivalent to 1375 Gt CO2) has been emitted since 1750 and that approximately 37 Gt are being emitted annually. 24 years of current emissions uses up that 900 Gt budget, but as Valdes points out emissions are still rising with no near term peak in sight shortening this period. As I wrote earlier with regard to North Sea oil and gas “…already discovered reserves of fossil fuels are more than sufficient? If in fact it would be very unwise to burn all the current reserves, why bother looking for more?”.