An even more sobering thought on CO2 emissions is that the remaining reserves of burnable fossil fuel far exceeds the carbon budget necessary to keep the world's mean temperature from rising above 2 degrees C. By 2011 the world had used over a third of its budget leaving only 565Gt of excessive CO2 to be stored. Unhappily, all of the proven reserves owned by private and public companies and governments are equivalent to 2,795 GtCO2. Only twenty percent of the total reserves can be burned unabated, leaving up to eighty percent of fossil fuel assets technically unburnable in the absence of effective ways to sequester the CO2 somewhere other than in our atmosphere. A number of scientists and corporations are working on carbon sequestration technology but so far nearly all approaches have proven to be economically unfeasible.
In the paragraph above I said "technically" because this 2,795 Gtons of carbon emissions, or at least a sizable amount of it will find its way into our atmosphere simply because it represents about 27 trillion dollars to the fossil fuel industry. To a very large degree the fossil fuel industry is already committed to exploiting these reserves. They have used their claim on these reserves as collateral for loans, have used them to calculate stock prices and to entice investors with promises about future profits. Some oil rich countries have based present and future national budgets on anticipated revenue from these fuel sources. We also need to keep in mind that the figures of 565 Gtons and 2,795Gtons don't include emissions from shale oil and natural gas refined from tar sand. Large scale exploitation of these fossil fuel deposits is too new to have been included in the calculation of the amount of CO2 emissions permissible to maintain a two degree C increase in world temperature.
Obtaining oil from tar sand presents its own set of problems. Extracting useable oil and converting it to gasoline is an extremely inefficient and wasteful process. Somewhere between two and four tons of tar sand and two to four barrels of water are required to produce a single barrel of oil. Rather than drilling, enormous shovels carve out open pits in the tar sands, scooping out the greasy interior. Next, the sand is hauled to a processing plant where the tar sand is combined with even more water to form a slurry from which bitumen is extracted. To become gasoline, partially refined bitumen is transported to an oil refinery where it is processed further and finally converted into gasoline. Since bitumen is a highly viscous "heavy" oil that doesn't flow as easily as lighter crude, it requires more processing to facilitate its flow through the oil pipelines. Overall, mining tar sands, extracting bitumen and converting it to gasoline releases three times more times carbon dioxide than typical oil production. With water quickly becoming a limited resource a decision will soon have to be made as to whether oil from tar sand is worth the cost to our environment and out quality of life.
Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is another controversial method of obtaining oil and natural gas from shale. In a typical fracking operation, "fracturing fluids" or "pumping fluids" consisting primarily of water, sand and a propitiatory (and therefore secret) mixture of chemicals are injected under high pressure into the producing formation, creating fissures that allow the oil or natural gas to move freely from rock pores where it is trapped. As a rule, steel pipe known as surface casing is cemented into place at the top of a well to protect groundwater. As the well is drilled deeper, additional casings are installed to isolate the formation(s) from which oil or natural gas is to be produced. Fracking is a relatively new technology and, while its pros and cons are still being hotly debated, there is mounting evidence that fracking has been responsible for groundwater contamination by natural gas and that fracking has caused small earthquakes. On the other hand, you could say that some folks in New York and Pennsylvania are being treated to a completely new technology, self heating water. Just fill your pot or tub, light it et voila ! hot water for cooking or bathing without the expense of a gas or electric water heater.
In addition to the books and articles used as resources for Section One, the following provided reference material for Section Two
The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics and Religion
By Matt Taibbi
Global Warming's Terrible New Math by Bill McKibben
in Rolling Stone
What Islands Will Disappear
The Great Dying: first it warmed, then it burned by John Timmer
Q&A: Copenhagen climate change conference 2009
Environment and Development Challenges: The Imperative to Act
Not only is climate change real, it's turning out worse than we thought.
How do human CO2 emissions compare to natural CO2 emissions?
Unburnable Carbon -- Are the world's financial markets carrying a carbon bubble?