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If you’re in a hole, stop digging, is the phrase that best summarizes the ominous message of The Sky’s Limitthe Oil Change International (OIC) report released in September. I, and dozens of Citizens’ Climate Lobby colleagues, will convey that same message to Members of Parliament and Senators when we lobby on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in the coming days.


Credit: Oilsands in Northern Alberta, Pembina Institute.

The OIC Report looks at both total reserves of fossil fuels versus developed reserves. It shows that not only must we not burn undeveloped reserves but also some existing fossil fuel operations already in use cannot be fully exploited if we are to avoid the worst perils of climate change.

Key Findings

  • The potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields and mines would take us beyond 2°C of warming.
  • The reserves in currently operating oil and gas fields alone, even with no coal, would take the world beyond 1.5°C.
  • With the necessary decline in production over the coming decades to meet climate goals, clean energy can be scaled up at a corresponding pace, expanding the total number of energy jobs. (Source: Adam Scott, (OIC) PowerPoint presentation)

Key Recommendations

  • No new fossil fuel extraction or transportation infrastructure should be built, and governments should grant no new permits for them.
  • Some fields and mines – primarily in rich countries – should be closed before fully exploiting their resources, and financial support should be provided for non-carbon development in poorer countries.
  • This does not mean stopping using all fossil fuels overnight. Governments and companies should conduct a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry and ensure a just transition for the workers and communities that depend on it. (Source: Adam Scott, (OIC) PowerPoint presentation)

Total Fossil Fuel Reserves VS Carbon Budgets

Our carbon budget is very simply how much carbon dioxide can be emitted into the atmosphere without causing catastrophic global warming.

Reserves are the quantity of fossil fuels — oil, gas and coal — that can be extracted in the coming years. This chart shows that if we keep 68% of reserves in the ground, we have a  likely (66%) chance of keeping warming below 2°C. And to have a medium (50%) chance of limiting warming to less than 1.5°C, we must keep a staggering 85% of reserves underground.

We are in a hole and it’s time to just stop digging ourselves even deeper.

If You're In A Hole, Stop Digging, boomer warrior

Developed Reserves VS Our Carbon Budgets

Not only must we stop exploring for more fossil fuel reserves, it is imperative to gradually scale down current operations in order to remain within the carbon budget limitations of the planet.

This report focuses on the roughly 30% of reserves in oil fields, gas fields, and coal mines that are already in operation or under construction. These are the sites where the necessary wells have been (or are being) drilled, the pits dug, and the pipelines, processing facilities, railways, and export terminals constructed.

If You're In A Hole, Stop Digging, boomer warrior

Stop Digging and Avoid Climate Chaos

The best possible future is one in which there will be a managed decline of fossil fuel use as our world transitions to a clean energy platform. According to the OIC Report, this means “no further extraction infrastructure is developed, existing fields and mines are depleted over time, and declining fossil fuel supplies are replaced with clean alternative to which energy workers are redeployed, thus preventing dangerous climate change.”



climate ironyRolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s a Climate Activist and a blogger. He’s a member of 350.Org (Ottawa), Climate Reality Canada and Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Ottawa). Rolly has been published widely in both print and online publications. You can follow him on FacebookTwitterLinkedin and Pinterest.

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