An average global temperature rise exceeding 1.5-2°C would cause catastrophic and irreversible damage to the Earth’s natural resource systems. Humanity would inadvertently experience detrimental effects like: famine due to significantly reduced crop yields; more frequent destructive and extreme weather events like floods and hurricanes; water shortages; vanishing of coastal regions and island states and impede the development prospects of countries. To maximize our chances to avoid these, humanity must comply with the carbon budget proposed by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and leave fossil fuels underground (LFFU).

An estimated 66% of all globally proven coal, oil and gas reserves must be left underground to generate a 66% probability of limiting average global warming to 2°C. Significantly more must be left underground to for the 1.5°C target. This implies that the Earth must achieve zero net carbon emissions in the next thirty years. That said, fossil fuels are a major source of energy production; in 2015, fossil fuels accounted for 65% of global energy production, while the remaining 35% came from non-fossil fuel sources including both nuclear and renewable energy. This means that the gargantuan multinational fossil fuel firms, like Shell, BHP Billiton, and Chevron (who own the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves) and smaller renewable energy companies must play a critical role in LFFU.

Phasing out fossil fuel is a challenging issue. There are many arguments for and against such phase out; and different actors have different kinds of arguments. These different arguments often align with different goals and targets within the Sustainable Development Goals.

We have begun studying the LFFU problem from a variety of angles, but there is much more yet to be done. Explore some of the research that our graduate students are currently working, familiarize yourself with some noteworthy databases, and join the cutting-edge research we are doing by checking out the forthcoming questions we are planning to tackle!

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