Why Carbon Should Be Left in the Ground

We must keep carbon in the ground to save our planet.

And fortunately, some countries, like Denmark, are already working on that. In 2014, Denmark set a new world record for wind power generation. Last year, 39.1% of Denmark’s overall electricity came from wind power. By 2020, Denmark is working to get 50 percent of its total power from clean and green renewable sources of energy.

Meanwhile, Denmark’s European cousins, the U.K. and Germany, also set national wind power records in 2014. By relying more and more on clean and green sources of energy, countries like Denmark, the U.K., and Germany are helping to reduce the demand for fossils fuels that are destroying our planet.

And that’s a very good thing, especially considering new research released this week by scientists at the University College London.

A new study published in the journal Nature argues that most of the remaining fossil fuel reserves on our planet will need to be left in the ground if we want to have any chance at preventing catastrophic climate change. The scientists behind the research argue that most Canadian tar sands oil, all Arctic oil and gas, and most shale gas has to stay buried underground if we want to avoid the 2 degrees Celsius warming benchmark. Christophe McGlade, the lead researcher on the study, told The Guardian that, “We’ve now got tangible figures of the quantities and locations of fossil fuels that should remain unused in trying to keep within the 2C temperature limit.”

So, what are the quantities and locations of the fossil fuels that need to stay underground? Well, McGlade and his team found that 82% of coal reserves globally need to stay underground to save our planet. That includes 92% of coal reserves right here in the U.S.

As for gas, 49% of global gas reserves can’t be burned, which includes 100% of gas reserves in the Arctic, 61% of gas reserves in the Middle East, and 63% of gas reserves in China and India.

Finally, the researchers found that 33% of the world’s oil reserves must stay underground, including 38% of reserves in the Middle East, 85% of reserves in Canada, and 100% of oil reserves in the Arctic.

Basically, if we want to have any chance at saving our planet from the greatest threat it’s ever faced, we have to leave fossil fuels and the carbon that comes with them in the ground. It’s that simple. Unfortunately, countries and companies are still spending billions on oil and gas exploration. A report by Oil Change International and the Overseas Development Institute found that collectively, the G20 nations and companies within them, which includes the United States, are spending a staggering $88 billion per year on fossil fuel exploration subsides to Big Oil. The US alone spent a whopping $5.1 billion on oil and gas exploration subsidies to big energy companies in 2013 alone.

Now, just imagine if all of that money went to funding developments in renewable energy instead. Almost instantaneously, fossil fuels would become unnecessary. Oil and gas companies could use their considerable resources and clout to turn us on a dime to a clean and renewable future. Speaking about the Nature study, environmentalist Bill McKibben said that, “Given these numbers, it makes literally no sense for the industry to go hunting for more fossil fuel. We’ve binged to the edge of our own destruction. The last thing we need now is to find a few more liquor stores to loot.”

It’s time for the United States – and the rest of the world – to stop investing in oil and gas exploration , and start investing in clean and green sources of energy. Only then can we keep carbon in the ground.and give our planet a fighting chance.


TarryFaster 8 years 21 weeks ago

Thom, if we could shut down all of the fossil fuel production today, --we would still lose the upcoming climate change catastrophe! We all need to refocus our attention, because the really big problem is much larger than the energy sector, as is explained in this powerful, new video:


Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 21 weeks ago

Interesting no mention of Venusaula or Nigeria. Two of worlds largest worst environmental polluters.

i am proud to say the U of Calgary is spending billions on research on keeping in in the ground in carbon capture and the first refinery in the world that returns all of its CO2 enmmisions is being built right now in Alberta. Just think all coal fired plants in the world could recapture all of the carbon. yet no news of this anywhere. Makes me wonder if it's carbon we want to get rid of or oil companies.

humanitys team's picture
humanitys team 8 years 21 weeks ago

I Agree and Thom knows that as well, that is why he is a vegetarian !Have you checked out the back of Thom,s book The Prophets Way .There is detailed information there on the impact of Eating a meat based diet .I think a lot of the information came from John Robbins who wrote Diet for a New America and Food Revolution .,amongst other great books on food and the environment .The information in Cowspiracy is not new but the more people that know the better .

We have to raise conciousness to change consciousness so thanks for the link ,we have to get the film going viral as they say .Especially to the kids, give our younger generations access to the consequences of eating McDonald's ,a meat and Dairy based diet .

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 20 weeks ago

Kend -- Sounds like you are spouting the mythology of clean coal.

Progressive Republican's picture
Progressive Rep... 8 years 20 weeks ago

In other words, we're [screwed].

Sorry, kids.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 20 weeks ago

This cartoon about the fossil fuel industry is a must-see. It's only about two minutes long. Check this out:


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