Avoiding fossil fuel 'lock-in' could limit global temperature rise

Avoiding fossil fuel 'lock-in' could limit global temperature rise
Credit: Michael Gaida

Research suggests there would be a 64 percent chance of limiting the increase in global average temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, if fossil fuel infrastructure was phased out immediately.

An international team of scientists led by the University of Leeds has used a new climate model to determine what would happen to if the phase-out process for carbon-intensive had begun at the end of 2018.

In the study's scenario, , cars, aircraft, ships, and industrial infrastructure are replaced with zero carbon alternatives at the end of their design lifetime – the point where large scale refurbishments or maintenance would be required.

The team found that if the process of replacing these systems with zero carbon alternatives – or not replacing them at all – began from the end of 2018, and their subsequent CO2 emissions decreased at close to a linear rate as a result, the chance of keeping global temperature rise to below 1.5°C is 64 percent.

Study lead author Dr Chris Smith, from the School of Earth and Environment and Priestley International Centre for Climate at Leeds, said: "All fossil infrastructure, such as coal power plants, carries a climate change commitment. A new coal plant will emit carbon dioxide for roughly 40 years across its lifecycle which in turn affects global warming.

"Investments into carbon-intensive infrastructure and their development and maintenance lock us in to the associated and make the transition to lower-carbon alternatives more difficult.

"Our research found that the current amount of fossil fuel infrastructure in the global economy does not yet commit us to exceeding the 1.5°C temperature rise limit put forward by the Paris Agreement. We may have missed starting the phase out by the end of 2018, but we are still within the margin of achieving the scenario the model put forward.

"Every year we delay in phasing out this infrastructure makes the fossil fuel 'lock-in' harder to get out of and the possibility of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5°C less likely."

In an article written for The Conversation, Dr Smith explains the details of the research findings and the necessity of phasing out fossil fuel infrastructure immediately.

The study, published today in Nature Communications, focused on , transport and industrial sectors, which have the best data available for the CO2 emissions for their historical lifetimes and produce 85 percent of global emissions.

The study produced a scenario that reduces CO2 emissions to net zero over 40 years. By contrast, the recent special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted a requirement for CO2 emissions to be reduced to net zero over the next 35 years. The authors explained that window of five years to get to net zero can be attributed to different modelling approaches with some of the difference is accounted for by the timing of emissions phase out.

The authors also acknowledged that their results rely on no large-scale climate tipping points being breached in the coming decades, such as large amounts of carbon dioxide that would be released from extensive permafrost melting.


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More information: Christopher J. Smith et al. Current fossil fuel infrastructure does not yet commit us to 1.5 °C warming, Nature Communications (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-07999-w
Journal information: Nature Communications

Citation: Avoiding fossil fuel 'lock-in' could limit global temperature rise (2019, January 16) retrieved 27 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-01-fossil-fuel-lock-in-limit-global.html
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Jan 16, 2019
Research suggests there would be a 64 percent chance of limiting the increase in (temperatures) . . . if fossil fuel infrastructure was phased out immediately.


The chances of that actually happening are zero. By analogy, we are in car barreling towards a cliff and the mighty fossil fuel industry is doing everything in their power to prevent us from turning the wheel. The only real question is when we go over the cliff exactly how deep the ravine is. Recent evidence suggests the ravine is considerably deeper than we had realized and nearly everyone will be affected.

We need leaders whose first loyalty is to their citizens, not to the Koch Brothers and their ilk.

Jan 16, 2019
Research suggests there would be a 64 percent chance of limiting the increase in (temperatures) . . . if fossil fuel infrastructure was phased out immediately.


The chances of that actually happening are zero. By analogy, we are in car barreling towards a cliff and the mighty fossil fuel industry is doing everything in their power to prevent us from turning the wheel. The only real question is when we go over the cliff exactly how deep the ravine is. Recent evidence suggests the ravine is considerably deeper than we had realized and nearly everyone will be affected.

We need leaders whose first loyalty is to their citizens, not to the Koch Brothers and their ilk.

And so, the "poor" Chicken Little jackass brays. It is in a car barreling towards a cliff and brays about the fossil fuel industry preventing him from turning the wheel, when he can simply hit the brakes.
Keep braying jackass, that's how you'll save the world.

Jan 16, 2019
Alarmist fools making ordinary people pay way more for their energy.

Jan 16, 2019
The switch from carbon fuels looks much cheaper and more realistic than it did 10 years ago, because the cost of solar and wind electricity has dropped so much. Wind and solar, even with back-up batteries, is now cheaper than coal in most new power plant evaluations. And electric cars are on a similar cost/performance trajectory, so that oil-burning cars will become displaced by electric cars using electricity from solar and wind.

The fossil-fuel industry isn't happy about this scenario, but progress in clean-fuel technology and the resulting market forces will blow them away.

Jan 16, 2019
@antigoracle.
@Mark Thomas.
Research suggests there would be a 64 percent chance of limiting the increase in (temperatures) . . . if fossil fuel infrastructure was phased out immediately.


The chances of that actually happening are zero. By analogy, we are in car barreling towards a cliff and the mighty fossil fuel industry is doing everything in their power to prevent us from turning the wheel. The only real question is when we go over the cliff exactly how deep the ravine is. Recent evidence suggests the ravine is considerably deeper than we had realized and nearly everyone will be affected.

We need leaders whose first loyalty is to their citizens, not to the Koch Brothers and their ilk.
It is in a car barreling towards a cliff and ..., when he [@Mark Thomas] can simply hit the brakes.
Exactly what "brakes" are you suggesting that @Mark Thomas (or anyone else, for that matter) "can simply hit", mate?

Jan 16, 2019
@Old_C_Code.
Alarmist fools making ordinary people pay way more for their energy.
What are you talking about, mate? The cost (and damage/dangers) of Fossil Fuel dependence/mining/transporting/storage/burning/waste-disposal/water/air poisoning etc etc) are much much higher NOW; and will be even more so in the all to near future if you and others don't wise up to the fact you are dupes being manipulated by the Fossil/GOP/Religious POLITICAL and BUSINESS vested interests who DO NOT CARE a whit about YOU or your future or that of your family. Stop repeating already falsified propaganda and wise up, mate! :)

Jan 16, 2019
Are these people high?

Jan 16, 2019
"Are these people high?" - kivahut

Not high. Just mentally ill and constantly lying, lying, lying... Just like their Fuhrer, Donald Liar Trump.

Jan 16, 2019
"Alarmist fools making ordinary people pay way more for their energy." - Old C Code

You can pay now or your grand children will pay, possibly with their lives, later.

The moral choice is to act now.

You on the other hand have chosen to whine about your pocket book.

Filth !


Jan 17, 2019
RealityCheck, you make a good point. Unfortunately these articles always bring out the professional liars like antigoracle and his ilk who completely disregard actual science.

As they said in the movie, The Day The Earth Stood Still (more recent version), the problem is not our technology, it is us. Clean technologies are becoming moe widely available to help us address this problem, but the entrenched fossil fuel industry is fighting hard to slow their introduction. Ask yourself how many decades will it take for CO2 levels to permanently drop below 400 ppm again? Possibly way too many, and until then, there is going to be helluva lot of damage done to people and the environment. We are playing with fire and already getting burned, it is just a question how bad.

Jan 20, 2019
Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040


A landmark report from the United Nations' scientific panel on climate change paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has "no documented historic precedent.


Try reading the NY Times article and the underlying IPCC report. We are definitely in trouble.

https://www.nytim...040.html

https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

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