24th May 2022
The term carbon bomb has been widely used in climate circles for the past decade to describe large fossil fuel projects or other big sources of carbon, but more recently has been given a more specific definition: projects capable of pumping at least 1bn tonnes of CO2 emissions over their lifetimes.
To put this figure in context, just before Covid, annual CO2 emissions peaked at about 36bn tonnes.
The IPCC report on Mitigation of Climate Change published on 4 April, specifies that emissions should peak no later then 2025 and be reduced by 43% by 2030 if we are to contain climate change and global heating at tolerably safe level. If that peak in 2025 is, say, 40bn tonnes, then globally we would need to be reducing carbon emissions by 4bn tonnes per year.
The International Energy Agency has already stated that the existing oil, gas and coal fields already in operation will provide all that is necessary to meet our demands for fossil fuels. In other words, if we are to meet our emissions reduction targets there is no need to open up new fields. This surely begs the question why anyone is investing money in expanding fossil fuel extraction or in exploring new fields? In part it may the fear of being the first to opt out – will they be exposed to risk? Will they loose out on profits? If everyone moved together it would be safer and fairer.
A recent report by the Guardian estimates that the current expansion plans of the fossil fuel industry includes 195 carbon bombs, and that 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. These companies – and those investing in them – are betting that by 2030 governments will not have achieved the 43% reduction in emissions and will still be in the market to buy oil and gas. If their bet wins the world temperatures will have risen by more than 2C and we will all be suffering the worst impacts of the climate crisis. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/18/carbon-bombs-inside-the-20-may-guardian-weekly
On the other hand what could $103m a day achieve if it were invested in renewable energy? How many wind farms? How many tidal energy schemes? How many solar panels on buildings? How many heat pumps? What could it achieve if invested in climate adaptation projects? How many buildings could be insulated (against heat as well as the cold)? How many trees could be planted to absorb water and lower temperatures? How many efficient public transport schemes? How many new farming techniques, new varieties of seeds, and advanced weather ?