The world’s biggest fossil fuel firms are quietly planning scores of “carbon bomb” oil and gas projects that would drive the climate past internationally agreed temperature limits with catastrophic global impacts, a Guardian investigation shows.
The exclusive data shows these firms are in effect placing multibillion-dollar bets against humanity halting global heating. Their huge investments in new fossil fuel production could pay off only if countries fail to rapidly slash carbon emissions, which scientists say is vital.
The oil and gas industry is extremely volatile but extraordinarily profitable, particularly when prices are high, as they are at present. ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron have made almost $2tn in profits in the past three decades, while recent price rises led BP’s boss to describe the company as a “cash machine”.
The lure of colossal payouts in the years to come appears to be irresistible to the oil companies, despite the world’s climate scientists stating in February that further delay in cutting fossil fuel use would mean missing our last chance “to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”. As the UN secretary general, António Guterres, warned world leaders in April: “Our addiction to fossil fuels is killing us.”
Details of the projects being planned are not easily accessible but an investigation published in the Guardian shows:
- The fossil fuel industry’s short-term expansion plans involve the start of oil and gas projects that will produce greenhouse gases equivalent to a decade of CO2 emissions from China, the world’s biggest polluter.
- These plans include 195 carbon bombs, gigantic oil and gas projects that would each result in at least a billion tonnes of CO2 emissions over their lifetimes, in total equivalent to about 18 years of current global CO2 emissions. About 60% of these have already started pumping.
- The dozen biggest oil companies are on track to spend $103m a day for the rest of the decade exploiting new fields of oil and gas that cannot be burned if global heating is to be limited to well under 2C.
- The Middle East and Russia often attract the most attention in relation to future oil and gas production but the US, Canada and Australia are among the countries with the biggest expansion plans and the highest number of carbon bombs. The US, Canada and Australia also give some of the world’s biggest subsidies for fossil fuels per capita. [Continue reading…]