The first global public database of fossil fuels was launched

The first global public database of fossil fuels was launched

A first-of-its-kind database to track world fossil fuel production, reserves and emissions is being launched on Monday to coincide with climate talks at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The World Registry of Fossil Fuels includes data from over 50,000 oil, gas and coal fields in 89 countries. This covers 75% of global reserves, production and emissions, and is available for public use, the first in a collection of this size.

Until now there was private data available for purchase, and analysis of the world’s fossil fuel use and reserves. The International Energy Agency also keeps public data on oil, gas and coal, but focuses on demand for those fossil fuels, but this new database looks at what’s left to burn.

The program was developed by Carbon Tracker, a non-profit think tank that researches the effect of the energy transition on financial markets, and the Global Energy Monitor, an organization that tracks various energy projects around the globe.

Corporations, investors and scientists already have some level of access to private fossil fuel data. Mark Campanale, founder of Carbon Tracker, said he hopes the program will empower government groups to hold them accountable, for example, when they issue licenses for fossil fuel extraction.

“Civil society groups need to get more focus on what governments are planning to do in terms of issuing licenses, both for coal and oil and gas, and really start addressing this permitting process,” Campanale added. the Associated Press.

The release of the database and accompanying analysis of the data collected coincides with two crucial sets of climate talks at the international level – the United Nations General Assembly in New York starting on September 13, and COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, in November. Data like what is being released in the program could help environmental and climate groups pressure national leaders to agree on stronger policies that will result in fewer carbon emissions.

And we desperately need carbon reductions, Campanale said.

In their analysis of the data, the developers found that the United States and Russia still have enough fossil fuel underground to exhaust the world’s remaining carbon budget. That’s the remaining carbon that the world can emit before a certain amount of warming occurs, in this case 1.5 degrees Celsius. It also shows that these reserves would generate 3.5 trillion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all the emissions produced since the Industrial Revolution.

“We already have enough fossil fuels to cook the planet. We can’t afford to use them all — or almost any of them at this point. We’ve passed the time to build new things in old ways,” said Rob Jackson, a Stanford University climate scientist who was not involved in the database.

“I like the emphasis on transparency in fossil fuel production and reserves, because of specific projects. That’s a unique aspect of the work.”

Jackson compared the global carbon budget to a bathtub.

“You can only run water so far before the tub overflows,” he said. When the tub is close to overflowing, he said, governments can turn off the faucet ( mitigate greenhouse gas emissions) or open the tub drain more (remove carbon. the atmosphere).

The database shows that we have far more carbon than we need as a global community, Campanale said, and more than enough to overflow the bathtub and flood the bathroom in Jackson’s analogy. So investors and shareholders should be holding decision makers at the world’s largest oil, gas and coal companies accountable when they approve new investments in fossil fuel extraction, he said.

Campanale said the hope is that the investment community, “which ultimately owns these corporations,” will use the data to begin challenging the investment plans of companies still planning to expand oil, gas and coal projects. .

“Companies like Shell and Exxon, Chevron and their shareholders can use the analysis to really start trying to push the companies to move in a completely different direction.”


Follow Drew Costley on Twitter: @drewcostley.


The Associated Press Department of Health and Science is supported by the Department of Science Education of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all matters.

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