Why are fossil fuels so hard to quit?

We understand today that humanity’s use of fossil fuels is severely damaging our environment. Fossil fuels cause local pollution where they are produced and used, and their ongoing use is causing lasting harm to the climate of our entire planet. Nonetheless, meaningfully changing our ways has been very difficult.

But suddenly, the COVID-19 pandemic brought trade, travel, and consumer spending to a near-standstill. With billions of people recently under stay-at-home orders and economic activity plunging worldwide, the demand for and price of oil have fallen further and faster than ever before. Needless to say, oil markets have been in turmoil and producers around the world are suffering.

Some pundits are now asking if this crisis could be the push the world needs to move away from oil. One asked: “ Could the coronavirus crisis be the beginning of the end for the oil industry? ” Another: “ Will the coronavirus kill the oil industry and help save the climate? ” Meanwhile, 2020 annual greenhouse gas emissions are  forecast to decline  between 4 – 7% as a result of the virus’ effects, and some of the world’s smoggiest cities are currently enjoying clear skies.

The idea that the pandemic could ultimately help save the planet misses crucial points. First and foremost, damaging the world’s economy is not the way to deal with climate change. And in terms of oil, what will take its place? We haven’t found a good substitute for oil, in terms of its availability and fitness for purpose. Although the supply is finite, oil is plentiful and the technology to extract it continues to improve, making it ever-more economic to produce and use. The same is also largely true for natural gas.

Climate change is real and we see its effects clearly now: In 2019 worldwide, 15 extreme weather events , exacerbated by climate change, caused more than $1 billion in damage each. Four of these events each caused more than $10 billion in damage. The large-scale use of fossil fuels tops the list of factors contributing to climate change. But the concentrated energy that they provide has proven hard to replace. Why?

A reporter raised that very question to me after a press Q&A that I did at a conference a few years ago. “We know that oil contributes to climate change and other environmental problems — why do we still use it? Why don’t we just quit already?,” he asked me.

Until that moment, I hadn’t thought enough about how my experience and background give me a clearer view than many on the promise and challenge of moving to a cleaner energy system. I have gained a wide-angle view of the energy industry as I’ve moved through my career, working in government and in consulting — for both oil and gas and clean energy clients — and then moving into the think tank world.

fossil fuel Generated from the decomposition of ancient plant and animal matter over millions of years. Coal, oil, and natural gas are fossil fuels.

To deal with the challenge of climate change, we must start by understanding the fossil fuel system — namely how energy is produced and used. Although fossil fuel companies are politically powerful, in the United States and around the world, their lobbying prowess is not the key reason that their fuels dominate the global energy system. Likewise, the transition to an all-renewable energy system is not a simple task. But the politics of blame are popular, as we’ve seen during the 2020 election campaign and in light of recent lawsuits against fossil fuel companies. There is plenty of blame to go around, from fossil fuel companies that for years denied the problem to policymakers reluctant to enact the policies needed to force real change. It has been easier for everyone to stick with the status quo.

The world needs technology and strong policy to move in a new direction. Throughout history, humanity’s energy use has moved toward more concentrated, convenient, and flexible forms of energy. Understanding the advantages of today’s energy sources and the history of past transitions can help us understand how to move toward low-carbon energy sources. With greater understanding of the climate challenge, we are making huge strides in developing the technology we need to move toward a low-carbon future. Still, understanding how we got here and why the modern world was built on fossil fuels is crucial to understanding where we go from here.

Our energy comes from the sun, one way or another

In the pre-industrial age, solar energy met all of humanity’s energy needs. Plants convert solar energy into biomass through the process of photosynthesis. People burned this biomass for heat and light. Plants provided food for people and animals, which, in turn, used their muscle power to do work. Even as humans learned to smelt metals and make glass, they fueled the process with charcoal made from wood. Apart from photosynthesis, humans made some use of wind and water power, also ultimately fueled by the sun. Temperature differences in the atmosphere brought about by sunlight drive the wind, and the cycle of rainfall and flowing water also gets its energy from sunlight. But the sun is at the center of this system, and people could only use the energy that the sun provided in real time, mostly from plants.

biomass Plant material, including leaves, stalks, and woody mass. Biomass can be burned directly or processed to create biofuels , like ethanol.

This balance between human energy use and sunlight sounds like utopia, but as the human population grew and became more urban, the bio-based energy system brought problems. In England, wood became scarce in the 1500s and 1600s, since it was not only used for fuel, but also for building material. London, for instance, grew from 60,000 people in 1534 to 530,000 in 1696, and the price of firewood and lumber rose faster than any other commodity. The once lush forests of England were denuded.

In 1900, roughly 50,000 horses pulled cabs and buses around the streets of London, not including carts to transport goods. As you can imagine, this created an enormous amount of waste. As Lee Jackson writes in his book “ Dirty Old London ,” by the 1890s London’s immense horse population generated roughly 1,000 tons of dung per day. All this manure also attracted flies, which spread disease. The transportation system was literally making people sick. The pre-fossil era was not the utopia we envision.

Fossil fuels opened new doors for humanity. They formed from the transformation of ancient plants through pressure, temperature, and tens to hundreds of millions of years, essentially storing the sun’s energy over time. The resulting fuels freed humanity from its reliance on photosynthesis and current biomass production as its primary energy source. Instead, fossil fuels allowed the use of more energy than today’s photosynthesis could provide, since they represent a stored form of solar energy.

First coal, then oil and natural gas allowed rapid growth in industrial processes, agriculture, and transportation. The world today is unrecognizable from that of the early 19th century, before fossil fuels came into wide use. Human health and welfare have improved markedly, and the global population has increased from 1 billion in 1800 to almost 8 billion today. The fossil fuel energy system is the lifeblood of the modern economy. Fossil fuels powered the industrial revolution, pulled millions out of poverty, and shaped the modern world.

How energy density and convenience drove fossil fuel growth

The first big energy transition was from wood and charcoal to coal, beginning in the iron industry in the early 1700s. By 1900, coal was the primary industrial fuel, taking over from biomass to make up half the world’s fuel use. Coal has three times the energy density by weight of dry wood and is widely distributed throughout the world. Coal became the preferred fuel for ships and locomotives, allowing them to dedicate less space to fuel storage.

Oil was the next major energy source to emerge. Americans date the beginning of the oil era to the first commercial U.S. oil well in Pennsylvania in 1859, but oil was used and sold in modern-day Azerbaijan and other areas centuries earlier. Oil entered the market as a replacement for whale oil for lighting, with gasoline produced as a by-product of kerosene production. However, oil found its true calling in the transportation sector. The oil era really took off with the introduction of the Ford Model-T in 1908 and the boom in personal transportation after World War II. Oil overtook coal to become the world’s largest energy source in 1964.

Oil resources are not as extensively distributed worldwide as coal, but oil has crucial advantages. Fuels produced from oil are nearly ideal for transportation. They are energy-dense, averaging twice the energy content of coal, by weight. But more importantly, they are liquid rather than solid, allowing the development of the internal combustion engine that drives transportation today.

Different fuels carry different amounts of energy per unit of weight.  Fossil fuels are more energy dense than other sources. 

Oil changed the course of history. For example, the British and American navies switched from coal to oil prior to World War I, allowing their ships to go further than coal-fired German ships before refueling. Oil also allowed greater speed at sea and could be moved to boilers by pipe instead of manpower, both clear advantages. During World War II, the United States produced nearly two-thirds of the world’s oil, and its steady supply was crucial to the Allied victory. The German army’s blitzkrieg strategy became impossible when fuel supplies could not keep up, and a lack of fuel took a toll on the Japanese navy.

Natural gas, a fossil fuel that occurs in gaseous form, can be found in underground deposits on its own, but is often present underground with oil. Gas produced with oil was often wasted in the early days of the oil industry, and an old industry saying was that looking for oil and finding gas instead was a quick way to get fired. In more recent times, natural gas has become valued for its clean, even combustion and its usefulness as a feedstock for industrial processes. Nonetheless, because it is in a gaseous form, it requires specific infrastructure to reach customers, and natural gas is still wasted in areas where that infrastructure doesn’t exist.

A final key development in world energy use was the emergence of electricity in the 20th century. Electricity is not an energy source like coal or oil, but a method for delivering and using energy. Electricity is very efficient, flexible, clean, and quiet at the point of use. Like oil, electricity’s first use was in lighting, but the development of the induction motor allowed electricity to be efficiently converted to mechanical energy, powering everything from industrial processes to household appliances and vehicles.

Over the 20th century, the energy system transformed from one in which fossil energy was used directly into one in which an important portion of fossil fuels are used to generate electricity. The proportion used in electricity generation varies by fuel. Because oil — an energy-dense liquid — is so fit-for-purpose in transport, little of it goes to electricity; in contrast, roughly 63% of coal produced worldwide is used to generate electricity. Methods of generating electricity that don’t rely on fossil fuels, like nuclear and hydroelectric generation, are also important parts of the system in many areas. However, fossil fuels are still the backbone of the electricity system, generating 64% of today’s global supply.

Fossil fuels still dominate global electricity generation.

In sum, the story of energy transitions through history has not just been about moving away from current solar flows and toward fossil fuels. It has also been a constant move toward fuels that are more energy-dense and convenient to use than the fuels they replaced. Greater energy density means that a smaller weight or volume of fuel is needed to do the job. Liquid fuels made from oil combine energy density with the ability to flow or be moved by pumps, an advantage that opened up new technologies, especially in transportation. And electricity is a very flexible way of consuming energy, useful for many applications.

Back to the future – the return of the solar era

Fossil fuels allowed us to move away from relying on today’s solar flows, instead using concentrated solar energy stored over millions of years. Before we could make efficient use of solar flows, this seemed like a great idea.

carbon dioxide Carbon dioxide is gas released when carbon-containing fuels (biomass or fossil fuels) are burned. Carbon dioxide is the most important gas contributing to climate change.

However, the advantages of fossil fuels come with a devastating downside. We now understand that the release of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) from burning fossil fuels is warming our planet faster than anything we have seen in the geological record. One of the greatest challenges facing humanity today is slowing this warming before it changes our world beyond recognition.

Now that there are almost eight billion of us, we clearly see the impact of rising CO 2 concentrations. Going back to the old days of relying mostly on biomass for our energy needs is clearly not a solution. Nonetheless, we need to find a way to get back to reliance on real-time solar flows (and perhaps nuclear energy) to meet our needs. There are so many more of us now, interacting via a vastly larger and more integrated global economy, and using much more energy. But we also have technologies today that are much more efficient than photosynthesis at transforming solar flows to useful energy.

Since 1900, global population and economic activity have skyrocketed, along with fossil fuel consumption.

Unfortunately, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, the most consequential greenhouse gas, has steadily climbed at the same time, along with global average temperature. .

The earth gets plenty of energy from the sun for all of us, even for our modern energy-intensive lives. The amount of solar energy that reaches habitable land is more than 1,000 times the amount of fossil fuel energy extracted globally per year. The problem is that this energy is diffuse. The sun that warms your face is definitely providing energy, but you need to concentrate that energy to heat your home or move a vehicle.

renewable energy Renewable energy is from a source that is naturally replenished. (Ex: capturing wind using turbines or sunlight using solar cells does not change the amount of wind or sunlight that is available for future use.)

This is where modern technology comes in. Wind turbines and solar photovoltaic (PV) cells convert solar energy flows into electricity, in a process much more efficient than burning biomass, the pre-industrial way of capturing solar energy. Costs for wind and solar PV have been dropping rapidly and they are now mainstream, cost-effective technologies. Some existing forms of generating electricity, mainly nuclear and hydroelectricity, also don’t result in CO 2 emissions. Combining new renewables with these existing sources represents an opportunity to decarbonize — or eliminate CO 2 emissions from — the electricity sector. Electricity generation is an important source of emissions, responsible for 27% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2018.

However, unlike fossil fuels, wind and solar can only generate electricity when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. This is an engineering challenge, since the power grid operates in real time: Power is generated and consumed simultaneously, with generation varying to keep the system in balance.

greenhouse gas A gas that traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere, including carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, and nitrous oxides.

Engineering challenges beget engineering solutions, and a number of solutions can help. Power grids that cover a larger area are easier to balance, given that if it isn’t windy or sunny in one location, it may be somewhere else. Demand-response strategies can encourage customers with flexibility in their processes to use more power when renewable power is available and to cut back when it isn’t. Power storage technologies can save excess electricity to be used later. Hydroelectric dams can serve this function now, and declining costs will make batteries more economic for power storage on the grid. Storage solutions work well over a timeframe of hours — storing solar power to use in the evening, for example. But longer-term storage poses a greater challenge. Perhaps excess electricity can be used to create hydrogen or other fuels that can be stored and used at a later time. Finally, fossil fuel generation often fills in the gaps in renewable generation today, especially natural gas generation, which can be efficiently ramped up and down to meet demand.

Transforming solar energy flow into electricity is a clear place to start in creating a decarbonized energy system. A simple formula is to decarbonize the electricity sector and electrify all the energy uses we can. Many important processes can be electrified — especially stationary uses, like in buildings and many industrial processes. To deal with climate change, this formula is the low-hanging fruit.

The two parts of this formula must proceed together. A shiny new electric vehicle in the driveway signals your concern about the environment to your neighbors, but achieving its full potential benefit also requires a greener power system. For today’s power system in the United States, and nearly everywhere in the world, electric vehicles provide emissions benefits , but the extent of those benefits varies greatly by location. Achieving the full potential benefit of electric vehicles would require a grid that supplies all renewable or zero-carbon power, something that no area in the United States consistently achieves today.

Wind and solar power aren’t everything – the remaining challenges

“Electrify everything” is a great plan, so far as it goes, but not everything can be easily electrified. Certain qualities of fossil fuels are difficult to replicate, such as their energy density and their ability to provide very high heat. To decarbonize processes that rely on these qualities, you need low-carbon fuels that mimic the qualities of fossil fuels.

The energy density of fossil fuels is particularly important in the transportation sector. A vehicle needs to carry its fuel around as it travels, so the weight and volume of that fuel are key. Electric vehicles are a much-touted solution for replacing oil, but they are not perfect for all uses. Pound for pound, gasoline or diesel fuel contain about 40 times as much energy as a state-of-the-art battery. On the other hand, electric motors are much more efficient than internal combustion engines and electric vehicles are simpler mechanically, with many fewer moving parts. These advantages make up for some of the battery’s weight penalty, but an electric vehicle will still be heavier than a similar vehicle running on fossil fuel. For vehicles that carry light loads and can refuel often, like passenger cars, this penalty isn’t a big deal. But for aviation, maritime shipping, or long-haul trucking, where the vehicle must carry heavy loads for long distances without refueling, the difference in energy density between fossil fuels and batteries is a huge challenge, and electric vehicles just don’t meet the need.


Gasoline carries much more energy per unit of weight than a battery. a gas-powered car with a 12.4-gallon tank carries 77.5 pounds of gasoline., a 77.5-pound battery, in contrast, would only carry an electric car 21 miles., an electric car with a range of 360 miles would need a 1,334 pound battery., weight of vehicle, despite the weight of the battery, other components of electric vehicles are lighter and simpler than their counterparts in a gasoline car. thus, the overall weight penalty for electric vehicles isn’t as severe as the weight penalty for the battery alone. .

Industrial processes that need very high heat — such as the production of steel, cement, and glass — pose another challenge. Steel blast furnaces operate at about 1,100° C, and cement kilns operate at about 1,400° C. These very high temperatures are hard to achieve without burning a fuel and are thus difficult to power with electricity.

Renewable electricity can’t solve the emissions problem for processes that can’t run on electricity. For these processes, the world needs zero-carbon fuels that mimic the properties of fossil fuels — energy-dense fuels that can be burned. A number of options exist, but they each have pros and cons and generally need more work to be commercially and environmentally viable.

Biofuels are a possibility, since the carbon released when the biofuel is burned is the same carbon taken up as the plant grew. However, the processing required to turn plants into usable fuels consumes energy, and this results in CO 2 emissions, meaning that biofuels are not zero-carbon unless the entire process runs on renewable or zero-carbon energy. For example, the corn ethanol blended into gasoline in the United States averages only 39% lower CO 2 emissions than the gasoline it replaces, given the emissions that occur from transporting the corn to processing facilities and converting it to fuel. Biofuels also compete for arable land with food production and conservation uses, such as for recreation or fish and wildlife, which gets more challenging as biofuel production increases. Fuels made from crop waste or municipal waste can be better, in terms of land use and carbon emissions, but supply of these wastes is limited and the technology needs improvement to be cost-effective.

Another pathway is to convert renewable electricity into a combustible fuel. Hydrogen can be produced by using renewable electricity to split water atoms into their hydrogen and oxygen components. The hydrogen could then be burned as a zero-carbon fuel, similar to the way natural gas is used today. Electricity, CO 2 , and hydrogen could be also combined to produce liquid fuels to replace diesel and jet fuel. However, when we split water atoms or create liquid fuels from scratch, the laws of thermodynamics are not in our favor. These processes use electricity to, in effect, run the combustion process backwards, and thus use large amounts of energy. Since these processes would use vast amounts of renewable power, they only make sense in applications where electricity cannot be used directly.

Carbon capture and storage or use is a final possibility for stationary applications like heavy industry. Fossil fuels would still be burned and create CO 2 , but it would be captured instead of released into the atmosphere. Processes under development envision removing CO 2 from ambient air. In either case, the CO 2 would then be injected deep underground or used in an industrial process.

The most common use for captured CO 2 today is in enhanced oil recovery, where pressurized CO 2 is injected into an oil reservoir to squeeze out more oil. The idea of capturing CO 2 and using it to produce more fossil fuel seems backwards — does that really reduce emissions overall? But studies show that the captured CO 2 stays in the oil reservoir permanently when it is injected in this way. And if enough CO 2 is injected during oil production, it might make up for the combustion emissions of the produced oil, or even result in overall negative emissions. This won’t be a panacea for all oil use, but could make oil use feasible in those applications, like aviation, where it is very hard to replace.

Carbon capture is today the cheapest way to deal with emissions from heavy industries that require combustion. It has the advantage that it can also capture CO 2 emissions that come from the process itself, rather than from fuel combustion, as occurs in cement production when limestone is heated to produce a component of cement with CO 2 as a by-product.

When considering how carbon capture might contribute to climate change mitigation, we have to remember that fossil fuels are not the ultimate cause of the problem — CO 2 emissions are. If maintaining some fossil fuel use with carbon capture is the easiest way to deal with certain sources of emissions, that’s still solving the fundamental problem.

Our biggest challenges are political

Science clearly tells us that we need to remake our energy system and eliminate CO 2 emissions. However, in addition to the engineering challenges, the nature of climate change makes it politically challenging to deal with as well. Minimizing the impact of climate change requires re-making a multi-trillion-dollar industry that lies at the center of the economy and people’s lives. Reducing humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels requires investments here and now that provide uncertain, long-term benefits. These decisions are particularly difficult for politicians, who tend to focus on policies with immediate, local benefits that voters can see. Last year The New York Times asked , for instance, “whether any climate policy is both big enough to matter and popular enough to happen.” Durable climate policy requires securing buy-in from a range of actors, including politicians from both parties, business leaders, and civil society. Their perspectives inevitably differ, and the lack of consensus — combined with very real efforts to exert pressure on the policymaking process — is a key reason that climate action is so politically difficult. (To try your hand at navigating the policy dilemmas, play our — admittedly simplified! — game below: “A president’s climate quandary.”)

In the United States and other parts of the wealthy world, current efforts focus on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from our energy-intensive lives. But the second part of today’s energy challenge is providing modern energy to the billion people in the developing world that don’t currently have it. You don’t hear as much about the second goal in the public discourse about climate change, but it’s crucial that developing countries follow a cleaner path than the developed world did. The need to provide both cleaner energy and more energy for developing countries magnifies the challenge, but a solution that leaves out the developing world is no solution at all.

Plentiful and inexpensive fossil fuels make transitioning away from them more difficult. Around 15 years ago, pundits were focused on “peak oil” — the idea that the world was running out of oil, or at least inexpensive oil, and that a reckoning was coming. Events of the past decade have proven that theory wrong. Instead of declining oil production and rising prices, we’ve seen the opposite, nowhere more than here in the United States. Technology has brought about a boom in oil production; geologists long knew the resources were there, but did not know how to make money producing them. There’s no reason to expect this trend to slow down anytime soon. In other words, running out of oil will not save us. The world will need to transition away from oil and other fossil fuels while they are abundant and inexpensive — not an easy task.

To achieve this technically and politically challenging transition, we need to avoid one-dimensional solutions. My own thoughts about how we need to deal with climate change have certainly evolved over time, as we understand the climate system better and as time passes with emissions still increasing. As an example, I used to be skeptical of the idea of carbon capture, either from industrial processes or directly from the air. The engineer in me just couldn’t see using such an energy-hungry process to capture emissions. I’ve changed my mind, with a greater understanding of processes that will be hard to decarbonize any other way.

The accumulation of CO 2 in the atmosphere is like putting air into a balloon. It’s a cumulative system: We’re continually adding to the total concentration of a substance that may last in the atmosphere for up to 200 years. We don’t know when the effects of warming will become overwhelming, but we do know that the system will become stretched and compromised — experiencing more negative effects — as the balloon fills. The cumulative nature of the climate system means that we need more stringent measures the longer that we wait. In other words: Sooner action is better. We need to take action now where it’s easiest, in the electricity and light vehicle sectors, and in making new buildings extremely energy efficient. Other sectors need more technology, like heavy transport and industry, or will take a long time, like improving our existing stock of buildings.

Those pushing to end fossil fuel production now are missing the point that fossil fuels will still be needed for some time in certain sectors. Eliminating unpopular energy sources or technologies, like nuclear or carbon capture, from the conversation is short-sighted. Renewable electricity generation alone won’t get us there — this is an all-technologies-on-deck problem. I fear that magical thinking and purity tests are taking hold in parts of the left end of the American political spectrum, while parts of the political right are guilty of outright denialism around the climate problem. In the face of such stark polarization, the focus on practical solutions can get lost — and practicality and ingenuity are the renewable resources humanity needs to meet the climate challenge.

Correction: An earlier version of a graphic in this piece mistakenly indicated that renewables comprise 0.6% of global electricity generation. It has been corrected to 9.3%.

About the Author

Samantha gross, related content.

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Editorial: Jeff Ball, Bruce Jones, Anna Newbyu

Research: Historical summaries of energy transitions owe a debt of gratitude to Vaclav Smil, a prolific author on the topic and the grandfather of big-picture thinking on energy transitions.

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What Would Happen if We Stopped Using Fossil Fuels?

It is common knowledge today that excessive greenhouse gas emissions have been warming our atmosphere at driving climate change. Scientists, activists and politicians are calling for a stop to these emissions, but is that really enough? What would happen if we stopped using fossil fuels today?

The International Panel on Climate Change just recently released its sixth Assessment Report. What they found was an overwhelming amount of data on the present and potential effects of human-induced climate change on the earth. But if we got ourselves in this mess, is it likely that we can do enough to reverse the damage we’ve inflicted? Or is there no returning to sustainable conditions?

Greenhouse gases. Gases that allow life to thrive on earth by sheltering and providing warmth, just like a greenhouse. The gases—carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases, etc.—trap solar radiation within the earth’s atmosphere, making the earth warm enough for the habitation of all sorts of life. This process is known as the greenhouse effect.

fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions global

A pie chart showing the percentages of different greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Source: US Environmental Protection Agency

The greenhouse effect and greenhouse gas narrative is a necessary evil. Earth’s average temperature without the greenhouse effect would be as cold as -18ºC, a staggering 30ºC lower than our current average temperature. But too much of anything can have severe effects, and the same goes with greenhouse gases. To understand how to mitigate our greenhouse gas emissions, we must first understand the beginning of the spike in emissions around 2 centuries ago.

The beginning of industrialisation saw copious amounts of greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere, what with the discovery of cheap energy such as fossil fuels. The efficiency of using cheap energy in industrial processes triggered trends of mass production and consumption, leading the emissions rate to snowball and increase exponentially . Since the first industrial revolution in the 1760s, 375 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide alone have been emitted around the world, and that’s disregarding the other more potent greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide.

carbon dioxide and future temeprature rise linear relationship

Source: IPCC AR6

The graph above demonstrates a near-linear relationship between cumulative CO2 emissions and the increase in global surface temperature . “Each 1000 GtCO2 (billion tonnes) of cumulative CO2 emissions is assessed to likely cause a 0.27°C to 0.63°C increase in global surface temperature with a best estimate of 0.45°C”, the IPCC report states. Their tight correlation is highly suggestive of the fact that increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emission is going to cause mass changes in the weather patterns, habitation, and biodiversity. But if we stopped using fossil fuels today, would that stop temperature rise too? Or are we perennially stranded in these already dire conditions?

It is important that a distinction is made between stopping greenhouse gas emissions and reducing emissions to net-zero. What would happen if we just stopped producing carbon dioxide, the prevailing greenhouse gas, but made no effort to remove it from the atmosphere? As carbon sinks, our lands and oceans would absorb some of the CO2 in the atmosphere, thus reducing atmospheric temperatures over time. However, the CO2 left un-absorbed by the sinks would linger in the atmosphere for around 300-1000 years . As for the ocean, it would likely continue to warm until it reached the same temperature as the atmosphere, which would bring the earth back into radiative equilibrium . Radiative equilibrium refers to a scenario where incoming solar energy is balanced by an equal amount of energy being radiated back into space. At this point, global temperature is the most stable it can be . Studies predict that reaching radiative equilibrium (after stopping carbon emissions) would call for around 0.5ºC of further warming.

In a best-case scenario where we manage to reduce carbon emissions to net-zero, it was originally thought that temperatures would stay relatively constant. However, the recent IPCC report found that sustained net-zero carbon emissions would reverse the increase in surface temperature and potentially reverse surface ocean-acidification. It would not, however, interrupt the trajectory of other climate-change-induced phenomena such as sea level rise, expected to continue for decades to millennia.

The graph below, made by the folks at Carbon Brief, illustrates future warming under different scenarios. 

if we stopped using fossil fuels and other scenarios

A graph showing the trajectory of temperature increases in different zero-emissions scenarios. Source: Carbon Brief

While we focus on CO2 with good reason (its concentration makes it the main driver of global warming by far), other greenhouse gases are not to be underestimated. Methane, second in concentration to CO2, is also 28 times more potent, but has a lifespan of only 12-13 years. Vast amounts of methane are stored under frozen ground in the Arctic, and rising temperatures threaten to release it. Conversely, nitrous oxides mainly come from human activities, and while they persist for around 120 years and represent only 6% of emissions in the US, their heat-trapping ability is 250-300 times greater than CO2. 

Although some greenhouse gases last for shorter periods in the atmosphere, we cannot afford to play the waiting game. With the effects of anthropogenic climate change becoming increasingly impactful, it is clear that reversing them is largely preferable to stalling them. If we stopped using fossil fuels today, warming would certainly slow, but greenhouse gas removal from the atmosphere will need to happen eventually.

This article was written by Alexandria Pu.

You might also like: 11 Interesting Facts About Climate Change .

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Myles Allen

We must stop fossil fuels causing global warming, before the world stops using fossil fuels - Prof Myles Allen

We have to stop fossil fuels from causing global warming, before the world stops using fossil fuels, insists Professor Myles Allen today, as he explains how net zero can be reached by 2050.

In a powerful new video message, the Oxford professor of Geosystem Science, who established the need for ‘net zero’ over 15 years ago, explains our evident addiction to using fossil fuels means the carbon dioxide they generate must either be captured at source, or recaptured back out of the atmosphere, if the temperature rise is to be limited. 

Speaking last weekend on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg , Professor Allen used lumps of coal to illustrate how much fossil fuel the world has already burned – and continues to burn, despite efforts to reduce emissions. He said, ‘Calls for fossil abstinence aren’t working.'

In today’s video, the scientist reveals how much carbon is still set to ‘dumped’ into the atmosphere, causing global warming – unless carbon capture technology is massively scaled up. Professor Allen says, ‘There’s plenty more carbon down there, enough to take us to three degrees, four degrees, five degrees and so on.’

Concluding, he says, ‘We will generate more carbon dioxide, by burning fossil fuels, than we can afford to dump in the atmosphere…as well as slowing down the rate…we need to focus on safe disposal of carbon dioxide,’

Professor Allen warns this is essential – on top of any action to reduce emissions. There is a lot that can be done, in terms of renewable energy and reducing emissions but, maintains Professor Allen, we will not achieve our climate goals by 2050 if we focus solely on the switch-over to renewables and nuclear power.

Last year, for COP26, Professor Allen explained the importance of net zero, in an updated message, see below, he sets out where we are now.

Speaking today, he maintains, ‘Of course, in addition to stopping fossil fuels from causing global warming, we have to make our food system sustainable, protect and restore global biodiversity. Stopping fossil-fuelled warming makes all these things easier, and if we don’t stop fossil fuels from causing global warming, then everything else, I’m afraid, becomes rather moot.’

In a recent interview , he pointed out, 'Britain could stop using CO2 entirely. We have great renewable resources, so we could just about achieve our goals by 2050, by eliminating fossil fuel use entirely.'

But, he added, ‘We might have to stop all flying and international shipping… everything would have to come through the Channel Tunnel. And that's Britain: a rich country and the one that really started burning fossil fuels: imagine making the same ask of Mozambique.’

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Will we ever stop using fossil fuels?

Not without a carbon tax, suggests a study by an mit economist.

should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

In recent years, proponents of clean energy have taken heart in the falling prices of solar and wind power, hoping they will drive an energy revolution. But a new study co-authored by an MIT professor suggests otherwise: Technology-driven cost reductions in fossil fuels will lead us to continue using all the oil, gas, and coal we can, unless governments pass new taxes on carbon emissions.

“If we don’t adopt new policies, we’re not going to be leaving fossil fuels in the ground,” says Christopher Knittel , an energy economist at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “We need both a policy like a carbon tax and to put more R&D money into renewables.”

While renewable energy has made promising gains in just the last few years — the cost of solar dropped by about two-thirds from 2009 to 2014 — new drilling and extraction techniques have made fossil fuels cheaper and markedly increased the amount of oil and gas we can tap into. In the U.S. alone, oil reserves have expanded 59 percent between 2000 and 2014, and natural gas reserves have expanded 94 percent in the same time.

“You often hear, when fossil fuel prices are going up, that if we just leave the market alone we’ll wean ourselves off fossil fuels,” adds Knittel. “But the message from the data is clear: That’s not going to happen any time soon.”

This trend — in which cheaper renewables are outpaced by even cheaper fossil fuels — portends drastic climate problems, since fossil fuel use has helped produce record warm temperatures worldwide.

The study concludes that burning all available fossil fuels would raise global average temperatures 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100; burning oil shale and methane hydrates, two more potential sources of copious fossil fuels, would add another 1.5 to 6.2 degrees Fahrenheit to that.

“Such scenarios imply difficult-to-imagine change in the planet and dramatic threats to human well-being in many parts of the world,” the paper states. The authors add that “the world is likely to be awash in fossil fuels for decades and perhaps even centuries to come.”

The paper, “Will We Ever Stop Using Fossil Fuels?,” is published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives . The authors are Knittel, who is MIT’s William Barton Rogers Professor in Energy; Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor in Economics and the College at the University of Chicago; and Thomas Covert, an assistant professor at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. The scholars examine costs over a time frame of five to 10 years, stating that further forecasts would be quite speculative, although the trend of cheaper fossil fuels could continue longer.

More efficient extraction

At least two technological advances have helped lower fossil fuel prices and expanded reserves: hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which has unlocked abundant natural gas supplies, and the production of oil from tar sands. Canada, where this type of oil production began in 1967, did not recognize tar sands as reserves until 1999 — an energy-accounting decision that increased world oil reserves by about 10 percent.

“There are hydrocarbons that we can now take out of the ground that 10 or 20 years ago we couldn’t,” Knittel observes.

So whereas some energy analysts once thought the apparently limited amount of oil reserves would make the price of oil unfeasibly high at some point, that dynamic seems less likely now.

To see how much better firms are at extracting fossil fuels from the Earth, consider this: The probability of an exploratory oil well being successful was 20 percent in 1949 and just 16 percent in the late 1960s, but by 2007 that figure had risen to 69 percent, and today it’s around 50 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

As a result of these improved oil and gas extraction techniques, we have consistently had about 50 years’ worth of accessible oil and natural gas reserves in the ground over the last 30 years, the scholars note.

All told, global consumption of fossil fuels rose significantly from 2005 through 2014: about 7.5 percent for oil, 24 percent for coal, and 20 percent for natural gas. About 65 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are derived from fossil fuels, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Of those emissions, coal generates about 45 percent, oil around 35 percent, and natural gas about 20 percent.

Renewable hope

To be sure, renewable energy has seen an impressive decline in its prices within the last decade. But looking at the “levelized” cost of energy (which accounts for its long-term production and costs), solar is still about twice as expensive as natural gas. The need to handle sharp evening increases in power consumption — what energy analysts call the “duck curve” of demand — also means power suppliers, already wary of solar power’s potential to reduce their revenues, may continue to invest in fossil fuel-based power plants.

The development of better battery technology, for storing electricity, is vital for increased use of renewables in both electricity and transportation, where electric vehicles can be plugged into the grid for charging. But the example of electric vehicles also shows how far battery technology must progress to make a large environmental impact. Currently only 12 percent of fossil fuel-based power plants are sufficiently green that electric vehicles powered by them are responsible for fewer emissions than a Toyota Prius.

Alternately, look at it this way: Currently battery costs for an electric vehicle are about $325 per kilowatt-hour (KwH). At that cost, Knittel, Greenstone, and Covert calculate, the price of oil would need to exceed $350 per barrel to make an electric vehicle cheaper to operate. But in 2015, the average price of oil was about $49 per barrel.

“It’s certainly the case that solar and wind prices have fallen dramatically and battery costs have fallen,” Knittel says. “But the price of gas is a third almost of what it used to be. It’s tough to compete against $1.50 gasoline. On the electricity side … the cheap natural gas still swamps, in a negative way, the cost of solar and even wind.”

Emphasizing the case for a carbon tax

That may change, of course. As Knittel observes, new solar techniques — such as thin-film layers that integrate solar arrays into windows — may lead to even steeper reductions in the price of renewables, especially as they could help reduce installation costs, a significant part of the solar price tag.

Still, the immediate problem of accumulating carbon emissions means some form of carbon tax is necessary, Knittel says — especially given what we now know about declining fossil fuel costs.

“Clearly we need to get out in front of climate change, and the longer we wait, the tougher it’s going to be,” Knittel emphasizes.

Knittel supports the much-discussed policy lever of a carbon tax to make up for the disparity in energy costs. That concept could take several specific forms. One compelling reason for it, from an economists’ viewpoint, is that fossil fuels impose costs on society — “externalities” — that users do not share. These include the increased health care costs that result from fossil fuel pollution, or the infrastructure costs that are likely to result from rising sea levels.

“Taxes on externalities are not inconsistent with the free-market system,” Knittel says. “In fact, they’re required to make the free-market system achieve the efficient outcome. This idea that a pure free-market economy never has taxes is wrong.”

Knittel adds: “The point of the paper is that if we don’t adopt policies, we’re not leaving fossils fuels in the ground.”

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  • 13 June 2023

The US EPA’s proposed regulation could help to kill off fossil-fuel plants. Good on it

You have full access to this article via your institution.

PacifiCorp's Hunter coal fired power plant releases steam as it burns coal outside of Castle Dale, Utah.

Coal-fired power plant in Utah, one of the states opposing the EPA’s proposed emissions rule. Credit: George Frey/AFP/Getty

Last month, operators of the main fossil-fuel power plants in the United States were put on notice: if they want to continue operating after 2040, they would need to reduce their carbon footprint by at least 90% . In the case of power plants that run on coal, the dirtiest of the fossil fuels, that potentially leaves only one option to avoid closure: these plants must capture and bury their emissions using carbon-capture and storage (CCS) technology.

The proposed rule, announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a belated but welcome step. It is not enough to expand clean-energy technologies: governments must also tackle existing sources of emissions. If implemented, the EPA plan would, albeit slowly, do just that. It would also send a powerful signal that one of the world’s largest greenhouse-gas emitters is serious about phasing out conventional fossil-fuel facilities. If anything, the EPA’s rule could be strengthened by bringing the end date forward and applying these requirements to more power plants.

should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

Carbon capture key to Biden’s new power-plant rule: is the tech ready?

Over little more than a decade, the United States has cut the quantity of electricity it generates using coal by more than half, from 1.7 trillion kilowatt-hours in 2011 to 828 billion in 2022, a trend that is set to continue. But the use of natural gas for electricity generation has been rising steadily in recent years, alongside renewable sources such as wind turbines and solar panels. As it stands, the United States still counts on fossil fuels for around 60% of its electricity — of these fuels, two-thirds is gas and one-third coal. That is why the EPA’s rule is so important. By setting such a high bar for emissions reductions by power plants, it effectively mandates the use of CCS, if the highest-emitting facilities are to continue operating, and that would be a game-changer.

Trial and error

Long-standing research and development efforts suggest that CCS is a viable technology to reduce power-plant emissions — indeed, it has been trialled at numerous pilot plants around the world. Some have encountered snags: equipment problems have frequently limited carbon-capture operations at SaskPower’s Boundary Dam, a coal-fired power plant in Saskatchewan, Canada, for example. But researchers say that such technological kinks can be straightened out as operators gain experience. The main reason CCS has never taken off commercially — and has only rarely been operated at full scale — is economic. Unless governments actively step in to mandate CCS or put a sufficiently high price on carbon emissions, it will be cheaper to emit carbon into the atmosphere. The proposed regulation would shift that calculation.

Not surprisingly, a coalition that includes states that rely on fossil-fuel extraction industries is preparing to challenge the EPA in court. There is a precedent: under former president Barack Obama, the EPA had crafted a regulation that sought to broadly shift power generation across the grid towards cleaner forms of energy. However, the Supreme Court ruled last year that the EPA doesn’t have the authority to oversee the restructuring of the entire electrical grid , and that its remit is limited to mandating technologies that can be used at individual power plants.

should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

US Supreme Court hobbles the EPA’s authority over climate emissions

The EPA’s current proposal seeks to comply with that ruling by arguing that CCS represents a viable technology that power-plant operators can install to slash the emissions of their facilities. The EPA’s challengers are expected to argue that the technology is too costly and unproven. This means that whether the proposal stands up will depend mostly on whether the court agrees that CCS is ready for prime time.

To be clear, CCS is not a panacea for the power sector. Even if power plants are able to capture 90% of their emissions, the remaining 10% will continue to be pumped into the atmosphere. At the same time, the costly and environmentally damaging extraction of fossil fuels would continue. In most cases, it would make more sense to shut down fossil-fuel power plants and transition to truly clean energy.

And that could indeed be the effect. In the case of coal-fired power plants, many will probably close down instead of complying with the proposed regulation, as EPA administrator Michael Regan acknowledges. The same could be true for many large gas-fired power plants, faced with the choice of adopting CCS or a costly conversion to burning ‘green’ hydrogen to meet the requirements.

should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

How to rebuild the US Environmental Protection Agency

Other regulatory requirements on fossil-fuel burning are also growing, even as the price of renewable-energy generation is tumbling. This means both pain and challenges as communities, states and businesses make decisions about which fossil-fuel plants to close, and where and how to fill the gap with clean energy. Many jobs will be lost, and others created. Those that are created will require new skills and won’t necessarily be in the same location.

The administration of President Joe Biden seems to be aware of these social and economic (and political) realities. In April, the White House announced that new policies have already directed more than US$14 billion in federal investments towards communities struggling with the loss of fossil-fuel-related jobs, with more investments to come. Managing the social costs of the clean-energy transition must remain a priority in the United States, and worldwide.

Everyone will all be better off for it. The simple fact is that fossil fuels are dirty, from end to end. The air pollution they create kills millions of people each year around the globe. The greenhouse gases they pump into the atmosphere are driving a climate crisis that is already threatening people and natural ecosystems worldwide. Ultimately, to halt global warming, greenhouse-gas emissions must be eliminated or offset by carbon uptake elsewhere. This means making difficult choices — and beginning, with intent, to tighten the chokehold on fossil fuels.

Nature 618 , 433 (2023)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-023-01825-0

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Community Voice

Should Fossil Fuels Be Taxed Or Banned?

By Henry Curtis

April 27, 2021 · 3 min read

should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

About the Author

should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

Henry Curtis

Fossil fuel giants ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, BP, Goldman Sachs, Ford and GM are for it.

should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

Progressive nonprofits are on the opposing side: Greenpeace, Food & Water Watch, Sunrise Movement, Friends of the Earth, Indigenous Environmental Network, Climate Justice Alliance and Life of the Land.

In the middle are mainstream environmental groups who must choose sides: should fossil fuels be taxed or banned?

The fossil fuel industry is pushing the tax approach. Let us use up our trillions of dollars of untapped petroleum, and in exchange, we will pass on higher rates to consumers.

Justice advocates note that economically challenged minority communities always seem to get all the undesirable infrastructure.

Instead of allowing these intrusive systems to remain in exchange for a monetary payment, they should be banned. We need to stop our addiction to oil.

The government likes taxes. They tax everything: taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, property and personal income raise money for the government to enable the funding of programs. Taxes on fossil fuel would provide another revenue stream for politicians to play with.

should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

Extreme Weather

The COVID-19 pandemic is minor compared to the unfolding climate nightmare. A small increase in global temperature due to greenhouse gas emissions has triggered extreme weather events including intense hurricanes, rain bombs and flooding, and has led to massive coastal erosion.

Human misery is on the rise. Health impacts will overload the medical industry. Billions of climate migrants will cross borders seeking new homes. This can only be slowed down by banning the underlying culprit.

COVID-19 is minor compared to the climate nightmare.

Carbon taxes are all the rage today. They are the miracle golden key that will save us. But will they, or will a carbon tax just provide green money for politicians and greenwashing for corporations?

To date, global carbon emissions have generally been extremely low. A few countries have higher carbon taxes and that has led to unintended harm. The carbon tax has decreased fossil fuel use and replaced it with tree-based energy which emits high levels of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Due to the power and influence of the fossil fuel industry, tree-burning is considered carbon neutral. Burn something, ignore all emissions associated with the forest razing industry, and clear-cutting forests has become the new coal.

It’s dirtier, more polluting, yet politically defined to be carbon neutral, so the fossil fuel industry wants to burn down forests to save the planet.

Obviously one can’t have both. Greenhouse gas emissions, whether from fossil fuel or tree-burning must be halted. Fossil fuels must be eliminated as fast as possible.

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Latest Comments (0)

Excellent article, laying out the stakeholder issues. First and foremost, continuing to burn and pollute with fossil fuels is no longer an option, at any market price, as the global heating consequences have placed Hawaii and the world on is a climate trajectory leading to a tipping point of no return. We have, and are, heating up the planet into a new norm of CO2 levels in excess of 400 ppm - a point similar what climatologists and geologists describe as entering Earth's mid-Pliocene period, when, about three million years ago, global ice sheets melted and sea levels were estimated to be 40 - 65 feet higher than today. As the dominant species on Earth, we have a responsibility to ourselves and to all life on Earth not to destroy the livability of this one-of-a-kind planet.We are long past the time of ignorance and denial, or to be discussing higher taxes vs. sunsetting our dependency and use of fossil fuels which are destructive and energy obsolete.  It will be disruptive, but we have the means to transition quickly to a global clean energy economy, all that is needed is the will to do it, and to do it now!       

BeyondKona · 3 years ago

The soon-to-be-released and distributed free energy machines will change the course of human history. Until then, there is not too much that we can do.

Scotty_Poppins · 3 years ago

Don't be a part of the whining chorus - be part of the solution. Fossil fuels will only go away if we succeed in creating alternative ways to create, transport and store energy that are sustainable, affordable, highly scalable, and universally applicable. The technologies that we have today are a good start but they do not come anywhere close to fitting the bill. Start with your own family: encourage your children and grandchildren to study math, science and engineering; also teach them to identify, avoid and ignore the fluff and nonsense schools and colleges are filled with these days. Persistently lobby Congress to fund energy R&D at drastically higher levels to enable true innovation - this hasn't been done since the 1970s! Learn to identify and vocally oppose the myriads of scams that revolve around the so-called "Green Economy Agenda". Repeat after me: Fossil fuels cannot be banned or taxed out of existence. They can only be replaced with something better. No viable replacement technologies currently exist. Taxpayer money that should be directed toward energy R&D largely goes toward boondoggles and pork-barrel spending. We must fight to change this.

Chiquita · 3 years ago


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Ask MIT Climate

Have a question?

I know that if we stop burning fossil fuels, it will reduce carbon emissions. but are there other benefits as well, reducing fossil fuel use is not just a long-term investment to slow climate change—it also protects human health and environmental ecosystems, saving lives almost immediately..

February 9, 2021

Fossil fuels are a cheap and reliable way to produce energy. They work even when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, and they’re very abundant—at least for now. So for countries with rising energy needs, it can be tempting to keep building fossil fuel plants despite their contribution to climate change.

This would be very harmful, says Noelle Selin, Associate Professor in the MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society. Even if we could just ignore climate change, fossil fuels come with many hidden costs. "A lot of fossil fuel plants have real detrimental effects on populations nearby, whether from the actual fossil fuel extraction, or because of air pollution,” says Selin. “Those costs aren't usually taken into account when people think about the potential risks or benefits for energy development, but they really should be."

The term “fossil fuel” refers to any source of energy made from fossilized plants or animals. This organic matter is compressed and heated over millions of years until it forms coal, oil, or natural gas. The reason these fuels contribute to global warming is that burning them releases carbon dioxide (CO 2 ).

But burning fossil fuels also produces other pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, ozone, nitrogen oxides, and soot. Soot is especially dangerous: when it’s small enough, we can inhale it into our lungs, causing asthma, bronchitis, and lung cancer. 1 And this is not a small problem. Health problems caused by air pollution lead to around 7 million deaths every year worldwide. 2

Even if there isn’t a fossil fuel plant near your house, fossil fuels can still pollute your air. Americans are also exposed to air pollution from gasoline-burning cars—which, in the U.S., are also among the biggest contributors to climate change. “Cars and trucks emit nitrogen oxides; those form ozone in the atmosphere,” says Selin. “They also emit CO 2 . So gasoline-burning cars are contributing to ozone pollution. They’re contributing to local air quality problems, and also contributing to climate change."

This means that many actions we might take to prevent climate change can also clean our air and prevent health problems. In fact, Selin says that “reducing fossil fuel use can actually pay for itself in health benefits, because populations will be healthier. This means fewer missed work days, fewer trips to the doctor.” These benefits add up quickly on a country-wide scale. More productivity at work grows the economy. So does less spending on healthcare, which frees governments to make more long-term investments in education or infrastructure .

Pollutants from fossil fuels also harm important ecosystems, like our waterways . The same gases that cause smog and damage our lungs eventually get absorbed into bodies of water, where they contribute to toxic algal blooms and oxygen-deprived areas that can kill off fish and other aquatic life. 3 Transporting fossil fuels like oil also has its risks: accidents on oil tankers and offshore oil rigs can lead to oil spills that severely harm the environment and the economy. And even taking fossil fuels out of the ground is a dangerous job with real costs to society. Almost 200 coal miners have died on the job in the US over the past ten years, 4 and over 10% of long-term American coal miners develop black lung disease. 5

We’re used to thinking of policies to fight climate change as long-term investments which only pay out decades in the future. But if climate action includes cutting fossil fuels, we actually have a lot to gain right away. As Selin says, “There are benefits that societies and individuals and communities can see from cutting fossil fuel emissions in the very near term. And in a lot of cases, those benefits really are overwhelming—larger than the cost of mitigating climate change.” In 2018, Selin published a study in Nature Climate Change that showed these benefits in action using China’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. 6 As part of the Paris Climate Accords , China pledged to stop increasing their CO 2 emissions by 2030. 7 If China manages this, the benefits of cleaner air—most notably, fewer deaths from air pollution—would be four times the cost of implementing the policy.

Studies like this show that moving away from burning fossil fuels can almost immediately begin to save lives and boost the economy. And at the same time, cutting fossil fuel usage protects us from the worst effects of future climate change.

Read more Ask MIT Climate

1 Theoretically, these pollutants could be captured by power plants and exhaust pipes before they enter the air. In fact, many countries like the US have pollution standards that manufacturers have to follow. But with current technology, it’s cheaper to make clean energy from other sources than to capture all the pollutants from fossil fuel plants.

2 World Health Organization, Air Pollution . Accessed February 9, 2021.

3 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Nutrient Pollution, The Sources and Solutions: Fossil Fuels . Accessed February 9, 2021.

4 U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration, Coal Mining Fatality Statistics . Accessed February 9, 2021.

5 Blackley, David J., et al. " Continued Increase in Prevalence of Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis in the United States, 1970–2017 ." American Journal of Public Health 108, Sept. 2018. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2018.304517.

6 Li, Mingwei, et al. " Air quality co-benefits of carbon pricing in China ." Nature Climate Change 8, April 2018. doi:10.1038/s41558-018-0139-4.

7 This amounts to a 4% reduction in emissions each year, through 2030. If China achieves this 4% reduction, the health benefits will save China $339 billion in 2030.

Ariel Mobius

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Home / Messages about harms of fossil fuels increase support for renewables, with or without a moral emphasis

Climate Note · Jul 20, 2023

Messages about harms of fossil fuels increase support for renewables, with or without a moral emphasis, by abel gustafson , matthew goldberg , sanguk lee , miriam remshard , andrew luttrell , seth rosenthal and anthony leiserowitz, filed under: messaging.

Messages about harms of fossil fuels increase support for renewables, with or without a moral emphasis

We are pleased to share the findings of a new study , conducted in collaboration with the Center for Public Engagement with Science at the University of Cincinnati. This study examines the persuasive effects of moral appeals on public support for the transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.

The global transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources (such as solar and wind) will be greatly affected by social factors such as public opinion, consumer demand, and political support. Political polarization over renewable energy has increased in the U.S. over the past five years . This divisive political climate underscores the importance of finding ways to communicate about renewable energy across different segments of the public. 

One approach is appealing to people’s moral foundations. Some research has argued that morality is a primary source of people’s opinions on a wide variety of issues. Prior studies have found that moral appeals can be persuasive for diverse people – particularly when they highlight moral principles held by the audience. For example, a message might be more persuasive if it argues that we should transition to renewable energy because fossil fuels are unethical due to pollution harming innocent people (violating a common moral principle) and to fewer people if it argues that we should make this transition because of climate change. Similarly, a message could argue that fossil fuels are unethical because the pollution contaminates the cleanliness of the natural environment – activating another key “moral foundation” of purity.

Here, we report findings from a recent experiment testing whether persuasive effects are enhanced by explicitly emphasizing the moral and ethical aspects of different energy sources. Although all information about the harms of fossil fuels and benefits of renewable energy could be interpreted as having some degree of moral implications, it is important for communicators to know if it is beneficial to explicitly make a strong moral claim as a reason to transition away from fossil fuels. Therefore, our study tested the effect of explicitly calling out those ethical implications, compared to only describing the negative impacts of fossil fuel use without an explicit statement about morals and ethics.

Overall, we found that explicitly emphasizing the moral aspects of the issue did not provide a boost in either persuasiveness or message durability. Put simply, we found that the messages describing the negative effects of fossil fuels and advantages of clean energy already had strong and durable effects and nothing was gained by adding an explicit claim about ethics. While this is only one study, the findings suggest that direct statements about the morality or immorality of different energy sources do not necessarily enhance the persuasiveness of messages. 

In our study, research participants were randomly assigned to watch one of five animated videos. Two non-moralized videos explained how fossil fuels can harm human health and the environment, respectively. Two “moralized” videos contained the same information but also included additional arguments about why this means using fossil fuels is inherently immoral , because doing so harms innocent people or contaminates the purity of nature , respectively. The image below provides an example. The fifth video, which provided information about an unrelated topic, provided the control (baseline) condition.

Displays a sample message used in the study, stating: “This is simply wrong. It is unethical to hurt innocent people with the pollution caused by burning fossil fuels. Innocent people do not deserve to be harmed like this.”

We found that all four messages were effective at changing beliefs about renewable energy and support for an energy transition. However, adding the specific moral claims (“this is unethical”) did not increase the persuasiveness of the message. Instead, all messages were similarly effective.

Persuasive Effects Over Time

In addition to investigating the immediate persuasive effects of the video messages, we also tested how long the persuasive effects lasted . Most studies on persuasion only measure immediate effects – that is, how attitudes and opinions are affected right after persuasive messages are presented. But it is critical to also understand how durable these changes are. Persuasion that quickly fades away might not be practically useful, especially when the desired outcomes are longer-term, such as changing daily habits or voting in a future election.

Accordingly, we measured participants’ opinions at three different times: immediately after seeing the message, about 10 days later, and then finally after another 10 days. This allows us to measure how much the initial changes in opinions persisted (or decayed) over time. Our findings (visualized in the figure below) showed that all four messages – whether moralized or not – had durable persuasive effects on people’s support for a transition to renewable energy. Across the four different messages, between 32% and 48% of the original treatment effect was still present after three weeks. However, we found no evidence of an added boost in durability from the explicit moralization of the message. Instead, there was similarly strong durability across all versions of the message.

Displays standardized treatment effects for all four treatment conditions across three time points each. The Harm condition had an effect of 0.21 at Time 1, 0.09 at Time 2, and 0.06 at Time 3. The Harm + Moral condition had an effect of 0.19 at Time 1, 0.06 at Time 2, and 0.06 at Time 3. The Purity condition had an effect of 0.19 at Time 1, 0.09 at Time 2, and 0.09 at Time 3. The Purity + Moral condition had an effect of 0.20 at Time 1, 0.11 at Time 2, and 0.10 at Time 3.

Gustafson, A., Goldberg, M., Lee, S., Remshard, M., Luttrell, A., Rosenthal, S., & Leiserowitz, A. (2023). Messages about harms of fossil fuels increase support for renewables, with or without a moral emphasis . New Haven, CT: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and University of Cincinnati Center for Public Engagement with Science.

Funding Sources

This project was supported by the U.S. Energy Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the University of Cincinnati’s Center for Public Engagement with Science.

Identifying Climate Messages That Work

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should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

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Don’t ban fossil fuels: absolutism in climate change policy is a vice.

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05 December 2019, Brandenburg, Baruth/Mark: Smoke is flowing out of the chimney of an industrial ... [+] plant. Photo: Patrick Pleul/dpa-Zentralbild/ZB (Photo by Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images)

One aspect of the debate over climate change policy centers on calls to ban the usage of fossil fuels, which is popular in some quarters but extremely questionable as effective policy. As Roland Geyer pointed out in the Guardian recently, the world has used up most of its carbon budget if it wants to meet the target of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees C. Therefore, a ban would only partially reduce GHG emissions and at an exorbitant costs.

And among the emissions targets and goal, a number of cities are turning to bans on cars, or at least gasoline powered cars, and natural gas heating in buildings. Utilities wanting to switch to natural gas run into opposition on the grounds that reducing emissions is not enough, they must be completely eliminated.

This is reminiscent of nothing so much as those nuclear power protestors in the 1970s who insisted that no level of radiation was safe and therefore nuclear power plants, which emit minute amounts, should be banned. Most abandoned that argument upon discovering that radiation is omnipresent, and impossible to avoid: power plant emissions would make a negligible difference.

Similarly, switching to renewables or even nuclear doesn’t eliminate emissions, only reduces them—and sometimes not all that much. The manufacture and construction of wind turbines and solar power, as well as their maintenance, requires significant amounts of energy even if they do not require ‘fuel’ per se. Which beggars the question: if the approach taken to fossil fuel consumption is that no greenhouse gas emissions are permissible, why shouldn’t renewables also be banned?

Geyer correctly notes that bans were imposed on lead in gasoline and CFCs with a high degree of success, and argues that same could be done with fossil fuels overall. But the cost-benefit equation is very different from substituting ethanol for lead as an octane enhancer or the varied substitutes for CFCs as refrigerants and industrial cleansers. (He remarks that renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels and that lifetime costs for electric vehicles are lower than for petroleum fueled vehicles, which is highly questionable but the subject for another day.)

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The reason why this matters is that some uses of fossil fuels are harder to eliminate than others and, indeed, some can be beneficial to the climate. The U.S., despite the past administration’s opposition to climate change policy, has seen large reductions in CO2 emissions because of switching from coal to gas in power generation. Indeed, gas power enables higher reliance on renewables because it provides backup for a highly unreliable resource.

Further, there remains a huge amount of coal being burned around the planet (including in the U.S.), and much of it could be displaced by natural gas relatively quickly. Stranded gas in eastern Siberia, the Caspian area, and even the Middle East would be shipped to east and south Asia; indeed, LNG all the way from America is often a cost-effective way to reduce GHG emissions in Asia.

Pre-industrial greenhouse gas emissions were approximately 440 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent a year, primarily from natural sources, most of which was offset by natural processes. Human caused emissions add about 30 gigatonnes CO2 equivalent a year. A small portion of that is from agriculture, land use, etc., rather than fossil fuel consumption. This is not to imply that those emissions are trivial or irrelevant, but to put the impact of a ban in context. Similarly, the fact that more methane emissions come from agriculture and wetlands than the oil industry doesn’t mean the industry shouldn’t minimize emissions. 

Too much of the climate policy debate centers on posturing, that is, proposals that are superficially appealing but not very effective, or not cost-effective. Completely banning fossil fuels is akin to earlier proposals to ban disposable diapers, which initially appealed to many but were quietly disappeared as the relative environmental impacts of cotton and disposal diapers became clear. Unfortunately, many energy decisions face loud opposition from citizen groups who are concerned about climate change but seem not to have a thorough understanding of the complexities of emissions.

The role of climate change policy should be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the most cost-effective manner (economic efficiency is just as important as energy efficiency), not to pretend that the elimination of one source will somehow be a solution. This is especially true given that some reductions will be very cheap (even profitable) but as complete zero emission (from one source) are approached, costs will rise very steeply. ‘First, do no harm’ is the physicians creed, but perhaps should be added the optometrists’ maxim, ‘Better now, or better now.’

It's unavoidable: we must ban fossil fuels to save our planet. Here's how we do it | Climate change | The Guardian

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should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

World’s governments must wind down fossil fuel production by 6% per year to limit catastrophic warming

Nairobi/Seattle, 02 December 2020 - A special issue of the Production Gap Report – from leading research organizations and the UN – finds that the COVID-19 recovery marks a potential turning point, where countries must change course to avoid locking in levels of coal, oil, and gas production far higher than consistent with a 1.5°C limit.

Countries plan to increase their fossil fuel production over the next decade, even as research shows that the world needs to decrease production by 6% per year to limit global warming to 1.5°C, according to the 2020 Production Gap Report.

The report, first launched in 2019, measures the gap between Paris Agreement goals and countries’ planned production of coal, oil, and gas. It finds that the “production gap” remains large: countries plan to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with a 1.5°C temperature limit.

This year’s special issue looks at the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic – and governments’ stimulus and recovery measures – on coal, oil, and gas production. It comes at a potential turning point, as the pandemic prompts unprecedented government action – and as major economies, including China, Japan, and South Korea, have pledged to reach net-zero emissions.

“This year’s devastating forest fires, floods, and droughts and other unfolding extreme weather events serve as powerful reminders for why we must succeed in tackling the climate crisis. As we seek to reboot economies following the COVID-19 pandemic, investing in low-carbon energy and infrastructure will be good for jobs, for economies, for health, and for clean air,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “Governments must seize the opportunity to direct their economies and energy systems away from fossil fuels, and build back better towards a more just, sustainable, and resilient future.”

The report was produced by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the Overseas Development Institute, E3G, and UNEP. Dozens of researchers contributed to the analysis and review, spanning numerous universities and additional research organizations.

“The research is abundantly clear that we face severe climate disruption if countries continue to produce fossil fuels at current levels, let alone at their planned increases,” said Michael Lazarus, a lead author on the report and the director of SEI’s US Center. “The research is similarly clear on the solution: government policies that decrease both the demand and supply for fossil fuels and support communities currently dependent on them. This report offers steps that governments can take today for a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels.”

The report’s main findings include:

  • To follow a 1.5°C-consistent pathway, the world will need to decrease fossil fuel production by roughly 6% per year between 2020 and 2030. Countries are instead planning and projecting an average annual increase of 2%, which by 2030 would result in more than double the production consistent with the 1.5°C limit.
  • Between 2020 and 2030, global coal, oil, and gas production would have to decline annually by 11%, 4%, and 3%, respectively, to be consistent with the 1.5°C pathway.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic – and the “lockdown” measures to halt its spread – have led to short-term drops in coal, oil, and gas production in 2020. But pre-COVID plans and post-COVID stimulus measures point to a continuation of the growing global fossil fuel production gap, risking severe climate disruption.
  • To date, G20 governments have committed over US$230 billion in COVID-19 measures to sectors responsible for fossil fuel production and consumption, far more than to clean energy (roughly US$150 billion). Policymakers must reverse this trend to meet climate goals.

“The pandemic-driven demand shock and the plunge of oil prices this year has once again demonstrated the vulnerability of many fossil-fuel-dependent regions and communities. The only way out of this trap is diversification of these economies beyond fossil fuels. Alas, in 2020 we saw many governments doubling down on fossil fuels and entrenching these vulnerabilities even more,” said Ivetta Gerasimchuk, a lead author of the report and the lead for sustainable energy supplies at IISD. “Instead, governments should direct recovery funds towards economic diversification and a transition to clean energy that offers better long-term economic and employment potential. This may be one of the most challenging undertakings of the 21st century, but it’s necessary and achievable.”

The report also delves into how the world can equitably transition away from fossil fuels, with the most rapid wind-down needed from countries that have higher financial and institutional capacity and are less dependent on fossil fuel production. Some of the largest fossil fuel producers in this group, including Australia, Canada and the US, are currently among those pursuing major expansions in fossil fuel supply.

Countries highly dependent on fossil fuels and with limited capacity will need international support to transition equitably, and the report explores ways to facilitate that cooperation. “Winding down fossil fuel production at a rate in line with Paris goals requires both international cooperation and support,” said SEI Research Fellow Cleo Verkuijl, who is a lead author on the report. “As countries communicate more ambitious climate commitments to the UN climate process ahead of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, they have the opportunity to incorporate targets and measures to decrease fossil fuel production into these plans, or NDCs.”

The report outlines six areas of action, arming policymakers with options to start winding down fossil fuels as they enact COVID-19 recovery plans. Among other things, they can reduce existing government support for fossil fuels, introduce restrictions on production, and ensure stimulus funds go to green investments (while tying any high-carbon support with conditions that promote long-term alignment with climate goals).

“This report shines a light on how government action, in many cases, risks locking us into fossil-fueled pathways. And it lays out the alternative, with solutions and examples for moving beyond coal, oil, and gas production,” said SEI’s Executive Director, Måns Nilsson. “It’s time to imagine, and plan for, a better future.”


Reactions to the Production Gap Report

“This report shows without a doubt that the production and use of coal, oil, and gas needs to decrease quickly if we are to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. This is vital to ensure both a climate-safe future and strong, sustainable economies for all countries – including those most affected by the shift from grey to green. Governments must work on diversifying their economies and supporting workers, including through COVID-19 recovery plans that do not lock in unsustainable fossil fuel pathways but instead share the benefits of green and sustainable recoveries. We can and must recover better together.” – UN Secretary-General António Guterres

“COVID-19 has shaken up energy markets and, if we seize this moment, we can make change happen by design. But whilst some countries are showing leadership by removing fossil fuel subsidies and limiting new exploration and extraction, we need to see much more if we are to close the gap between planned fossil fuel production and climate commitments made under the Paris Climate Agreement. Working together, governments, companies and investors can bring forward a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry in a way that minimises disruption and ensures a just transition for workers and communities.”– Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland and Chair of the Elders

“The science is clear that fossil fuel production has to reduce drastically to meet climate goals. This needs to happen in a managed, just, and globally equitable way. Governments must initiate social dialogue processes with workers and their unions, and with affected communities to implement Just Transition plans that minimize adverse impacts and maximize the benefits of the clean energy transition.” – Ayuba Wabba, President of the International Trade Union Confederation

About the Production Gap Report Modelled after the UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report series — and conceived as a complementary analysis — this report conveys the large discrepancy between countries' planned fossil fuel production and the global production levels necessary to limit warming to 1.5°C and 2°C.

About the Stockholm Environment Institute Stockholm Environment Institute is an independent, international research institute that has been engaged in environment and development issues at local, national, regional and global policy levels for more than a quarter of a century. SEI supports decision making for sustainable development by bridging science and policy.

About UNEP The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.  

About the International Institute for Sustainable Development  The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning, independent think tank championing research-driven solutions to the world's greatest environmental challenges. Our vision is a balanced world where people and the planet thrive; our mission is to accelerate the global transition to clean water, fair economies and a stable climate. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa and Toronto, our work impacts lives in nearly 100 countries. 

About ODI ODI is an independent, global think tank, working for a sustainable and peaceful world in which every person thrives. We harness the power of evidence and ideas through research and partnership to confront challenges, develop solutions, and create change.

About E3G E3G is an independent European climate change think tank with a global outlook. We are world leading strategists on the political economy of climate change, dedicated to achieving a safe climate for all. We work on the frontier of the climate landscape tackling the barriers and advancing the solutions to a safe climate. Our goal is to translate climate politics, economics and policies into action.

For more information please contact:

Emily Yehle , Senior Communications Officer, Stockholm Environment Institute News and Media unit , United Nations Environment Programme

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June 7, 2024

Could the U.S. Ban Fossil Fuel Ads?

This week U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called for bans on fossil fuel ads, but legal challenges would make nationwide restrictions difficult to implement in the U.S.

By Chelsea Harvey , Scott Waldman & E&E News

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CLIMATEWIRE | United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres raised eyebrows Wednesday when he called on world leaders to ban advertising for fossil fuels .

The request is not without precedent; some governments already have restrictions in place. Amsterdam became the world’s first city to ban ads from fossil fuel and aviation companies in 2021. And France became the first country to ban certain advertisements for fossil fuels in 2022.

But in other countries — including the United States — nationwide bans would be tricky to implement.

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While the United States has put in place advertising restrictions on products such as cigarettes and alcohol, those rules were aimed at protecting children — who can’t legally purchase those products, said Michael Gerrard, founder and faculty director of Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.

“It’s hard to envision, politically, Congress enacting a similar ban on fossil fuel advertising,” he said.

Even if Congress attempted it, a fossil fuel ad ban would almost certainly collapse against legal challenges under current U.S. laws, said Rebecca Tushnet, a First Amendment professor at Harvard Law School. In general, advertising restrictions must demonstrate that something about the campaign is false, misleading or illegal.

Cigarette restrictions were partly intended to remove ads from places where children, who are not legal consumers, could see them. Other regulations were aimed at preventing cigarette companies from making misleading statements, such as ads that claim one brand is healthier than others. Studies overwhelmingly indicate that all cigarettes can increase the risk of cancer and other illnesses.

Barring a major shift in the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, where commercial speech is protected by the First Amendment, a blanket federal ban on fossil fuel advertising would be hard to uphold, Tushnet said.

“It would be open to what is clearly a winning legal challenge under current law,” she said.

An easier avenue might be targeting specific false claims in existing ad campaigns.

Some lawsuits already have targeted fossil fuel companies for running ads with misleading claims about the impacts of their products on the environment or human health, said Robert Brulle, a Brown University professor who studies corporate climate denial and “greenwashing” — or misleading statements about a company’s environmental impacts.

A 2021 lawsuit filed by the city of New York sought to penalize corporations for “misrepresenting the purported environmental benefit of using their fossil fuel products and failing to disclose the risks of climate change caused by those products.”

The suit alleged that such claims violated the Consumer Protection Act.

The American Petroleum Institute responded to the claims of misleading ads by stating that the industry was working on “tackling the climate challenge.”

“Our industry is focused on continuing to produce affordable, reliable energy while tackling the climate challenge, and any allegations to the contrary are false,” API spokesperson Megan Bloomgren said in a statement. “Enabling an affordable, reliable and secure energy future will require contributions from all forms of energy, including oil and natural gas, which are expected to provide over half of the world’s energy needs in 2050.”

Yet the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on global warming, says that global greenhouse gas emissions must spiral down to net zero by midcentury in order to meet the world’s global climate targets. That means dramatic declines in the burning of fossil fuels in the coming years.

In theory, lawmakers could tackle fossil fuel ads by requiring them to include warnings about the dangers they pose to the planet. There’s precedent for that too — alcohol and cigarettes include mandatory warnings about their adverse effects on human health, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, while EPA enforces warnings for pesticides about their dangers to humans and the environment.

Some municipalities have made moves toward mandatory fossil fuel warnings in recent years. At the end of 2020, Cambridge, Massachusetts, became the first U.S. city to require labels on gas pumps warning of the risks that gasoline, ethanol and diesel pose to human health and the environment.

But federal agencies, like EPA, would be unlikely to require nationwide warning labels for fossil fuels without a mandate from Congress, Tushnet said. And even that might be open to legal challenges.

Fossil fuel companies could argue in court that the dangers of climate change are still debatable, disputing the need for warnings. (In reality, scientists overwhelmingly agree that global warming is caused by the burning of fossil fuels and poses existential risks to humans and the environment.)

While government bans are tricky, restrictions by private companies face no such obstacles. Media companies can decline to sell ad space to fossil fuel firms, and advertising companies can turn away fossil fuel clients, without facing credible First Amendment challenges.

“That’s a purely private action without government interference,” Gerrard said.

Some companies already have adopted policies banning fossil fuel ads, including news organizations including The Guardian and Vox Media. (Disclosure: POLITICO does publish advertisements from fossil fuel companies.)

Guterres’ speech suggests that private interventions and government policies alike could tackle greenwashing in fossil fuel advertisements. The timing has never been more important, he noted.

“Many in the fossil fuel industry have shamelessly greenwashed, even as they have sought to delay climate action with lobbying, legal threats, and massive ad campaigns,” Guterres said. “They have been aided and abetted by advertising and PR companies — mad men fueling the madness. I call on these companies to stop acting as enablers of planetary destruction.”

Earth is hurtling toward a major climate milestone , with experts warning that the 1.5-degree temperature target — the Paris Agreement’s primary goal — is quickly slipping out of reach. Meanwhile, world leaders are working on updating their national climate pledges, which they’ll submit in November 2025 at the U.N.’s annual climate conference. The next 18 months present a crucial window to strengthen global climate action, Guterres said.

Brulle said the secretary-general’s comments on advertising are a turning point in raising the public’s awareness of fossil fuel misinformation.

“This is an ever-accelerating issue that's now being pushed when the chief of the U.N. says something,” Brulle said. “No, he doesn't have any legal authority, but he does have moral authority, and other international bodies like the E.U. could take a look at that and say, ‘Yeah, we're gonna ban this.’”

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2024. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.

Data: Banning U.S. fossil fuel consumption wouldn’t stop climate change

July 7, 2023

More than 80% of our energy and nearly every product we rely on daily come from fossil fuels. But they’re killing the planet, right?

Data models used by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), traditionally a champion for fighting climate change, project that even banning ALL U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would barely put a dent in the climate.

The IPCC claims that the world needs to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change. The problem is that developing countries need to increase their energy use (and therefore their emissions) over that time, and the effect of developed countries limiting their future emissions is minimal. For example, here is what the Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse Gas-Induced Climate Change ( MAGICC ) projects would happen if the United States banned fossil fuels by 2050, as many politicians are calling for.

What if the U.S. phased out fossil fuels by 2050?

Emission reductions

100% renewable electricity generation

Degrees Difference in 2100

Ban ALL fossil fuels (including cars)

Just below a tenth of a degree — so maybe 2050 isn’t soon enough. What about 2040?

What if the U.S. phased out fossil fuels by 2040?

The European Union also has plans to go “zero carbon” by 2050. This would have even less effect on the temperature, given that the EU collectively emits about a third less carbon dioxide than the U.S.

Those who want to ban our most affordable, reliable, abundant source of fuel might be surprised to know that banning fossil fuels and going 100% renewable — if it were even feasible — would have no meaningful impact on the temperature.

The best science indicates that our climate is is likely to remain moderate and manageable. The question remains whether imperceptibly slight warming is worth strangling our economy and quality of life.

Brent Bennett is Life:Powered's policy director. He holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from The University of Texas. His scientific background includes battery technology and energy storage systems.

Banning ALL #fossilfuels by 2050 would only cut #climatechange by 0.082°C. A tenth of a degree isn't worth limiting our #energy, economy, and quality of life.

Despite the apocalyptic headlines circulated in the media and by celebrities, the best science indicates that our #climate is likely to remain moderate and manageable., receive video updates, and the latest news straight to your inbox.

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Recycling Is Broken. Should I Even Bother?

Every little bit helps. But doing it wrong can actually make matters worse.

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  • June 17, 2024

Recycling can have big environmental benefits. For one thing, it keeps unwanted objects out of landfills or incinerators, where they can produce potent greenhouse gasses and potentially hazardous pollutants .

Even more important, recycling allows us to extract fewer resources. The amount of energy required to recycle aluminum, for example, is less than 5 percent of the energy needed to mine new ore from the ground. Similarly, the more paper we recycle, the fewer trees we cut down.

But recycling rates in the United States have remained stubbornly flat for years. And, in some cases, they’re dismal. Just 10 percent of plastics are actually recycled. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of tons of recyclable waste are exported, often to developing countries.

It’s no wonder a lot of readers have asked us whether individual efforts make any difference at all. To answer that question, it helps to understand how the system works and how people use it.

Why is recycling struggling?

The way the system is set up, recycling is a business. And our recyclables — metals, paper, and plastics — are commodities.

When you throw something into the blue bin, whether it’s recyclable or not, it gets carted off to a sorting plant where it runs along a conveyor belt and gets grouped with similar items. Then, the recyclable stuff is bundled. The process is labor-intensive.

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‘Watershed moment’ for fossil fuels at Supreme Court

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Campaigners celebrate outside the Supreme Court in London

This historic ruling is a watershed moment in the fight to stop further fossil fuel extraction projects in the UK. Gas, oil and coal companies have been fighting tooth and nail to avoid having to account for all the climate-harming emissions their developments cause.

Surrey County Council acted unlawfully by giving planning permission for oil production at Horse Hill in the Surrey countryside without considering the climate impacts when the oil is inevitably burned, the Supreme Court has ruled today.  

Planning permission for four new oil wells and 20 years of oil production at Horse Hill will now be quashed.

The landmark judgment follows a legal challenge against Surrey County Council’s decision to grant planning permission for oil drilling at Horse Hill, near Gatwick airport in the Surrey countryside. 

The case was brought by former Surrey resident Sarah Finch, on behalf of the Weald Action Group, and supported by Friends of the Earth.

It could have enormous impacts on all new UK fossil fuel developments – including proposals for a new coal mine in Cumbria and North Sea oil and gas projects.  

Not included

Finch argued that the environmental impact assessment carried out by Surrey County Council – which declared a climate emergency in 2019 – should have considered the climate impacts that would inevitably arise from burning the oil, known as ‘Scope 3’ or ‘downstream’ emissions.

More than 10 million tonnes of carbon emissions would be produced from burning the oil, but this was not included in the environmental impact assessments. 

Scope 3 emissions are increasingly being left out of environmental impact assessments when planning applications are made for fossil fuel projects, including plans for a new coal mine on Cumbria and new North Sea oil developments, despite the huge impact they would have on the escalating climate crisis.  

Justice Leggatt said: “I do not accept the premise that it would be wrong for a local planning authority, in deciding whether to grant planning permission, to take into account the fact that the proposed use of the land is one that will contribute to global warming through fossil fuel extraction.”

'Heavy blow'

FoE called the ruling “groundbreaking”, and “a heavy blow” for the fossil fuel industry. The judgment is very clear that the inevitability of the end-use emissions of this oil project meant they were indirect effects of the development, and so needed to be factored into the environmental impact assessment, FoE pointed out in a statement.

Friends of the Earth lawyer Katie de Kauwe said: “This historic ruling is a watershed moment in the fight to stop further fossil fuel extraction projects in the UK and make the emissions cuts needed to meet crucial climate targets. It is a huge boost to everyone involved in resisting fossil fuel projects.

“Gas, oil and coal companies have been fighting tooth and nail to avoid having to account for all the climate-harming emissions their developments cause,” she said.

Developers of the Whitehaven coal mine and the Rosebank oil field in the North Sea also did not provide information on downstream emissions in their environmental statements. 

Both are currently subject to legal challenges, and today’s judgment strengthens the cases against them, FoE believes.

The Stop Rosebank campaign is also bringing legal action on the grounds that the emissions from burning the oil and gas had not been taken into account. Its case was on hold pending the Supreme Court decision. 

In a statement, the campaign said: "This now means that we can proceed with our legal case against the Rosebank oil field on very strong grounds and with more confidence than ever. We expect to get the official permission to proceed with the Rosebank case, along with a date for our hearing, very soon."

De Kauwe added: “This is a stunning victory for Sarah Finch and the Weald Action Group, after nearly five years of grit and determination, in going to court year after year against adversaries with far greater financial resources than they have. Despite setbacks in the lower courts, they never gave up.” 

Campaigner Sarah Finch said she was   “absolutely over the moon” to have won the case. “The oil and gas companies may act like business-as-usual is still an option, but it will be very hard for planning authorities to permit new fossil fuel developments – in the Weald, the North Sea or anywhere else – when their true climate impact is clear for all to see,” she said.

In a statement, Surrey County Council said: "Council officers at the time of the planning application assessment believed that they acted in compliance with the law. The judgement makes it clear that local planning authorities must have regard to downstream emissions." 

A new decision on the planning application will need to be made in due course.

This Author

Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She tweets at  @Cat_Early76 .

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Taking a Lesson from the Tobacco Ad Ban to Shut Down Fossil Fuel Greenwashing

Numerous national flags are seen in front of the United Nations Office at the Palais de Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

When was the last time you turned on the television and caught an ad for cigarettes? Depending on where you are in the world—and if you’re young enough—you may be scratching your head that tobacco companies were ever allowed to advertise on TV. It’s another head-scratcher that Big Oil, an industry at least as deceptive and destructive as Big Tobacco, can still use the magic of advertising to sanitize, socialize, and sell its products. But this may not be the case forever.

This month, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for a ban on advertising by fossil fuel companies, invoking the ban on tobacco ads as a relevant precedent. Member states of the UN’s specialized health agency—the World Health Organization—included a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control ( WHO FCTC ). The treaty, in force as international law for nearly 20 years, now binds 183 parties, protecting more than 90 percent of the world’s people.

So what can we learn from the ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship that may be relevant to tackling the fossil fuel industry-driven climate crisis? Based on my experience, including as a civil society observer in the tobacco treaty negotiations: a lot.

Let’s consider why this measure was included in the global tobacco treaty, what tactics and entities it covers, how it came about, how it connects with and depends on measures to protect public policy from vested commercial interests, and what those of us working to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for climate deception and damages can learn.

Why ban advertising, promotion, and sponsorship of dangerous and deadly products?

The tobacco industry is the vector of a preventable epidemic that kills millions of people around the world each year. Corporations such as Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, and Reynolds American have used advertising, promotion, and sponsorship to addict new customers—youth in wealthy countries like the United States, women in countries where they hadn’t smoked, and of people in low- and middle-income countries.

Insidiously effective imagery used to hawk cigarettes included the infamous Marlboro Man— dubbed “a perfect symbol of independence and individualistic rebellion” by its creator; the notorious Joe Camel cartoon character designed to appeal to kids; the “Torches of Freedom” campaign promoting Lucky Strikes to women, developed by Edward Bernays (known as the father of modern public relations); and sponsorship of women’s tennis by Virginia Slims with the slogan “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby,” ironically proclaiming equal access to tobacco-related addiction, disease, and death.

Robust evidence backs a tobacco ad ban: it is well documented that tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship increase tobacco use, while comprehensive bans decrease it. Several countries, including South Africa and Thailand, had banned tobacco advertising before there was a global tobacco treaty, and their experiences informed the negotiations.

What do we mean by advertising, promotion, and sponsorship?

At the time the tobacco treaty was negotiated, the tobacco industry used a wide range of promotional tactics—including billboard and magazine advertising, point of sale ads and displays, “brand stretching” (use of tobacco logos on non-tobacco products such as T-shirts and baseball caps), sponsorship of sporting events such as Formula One racing and women’s tennis, and product placement in movies and TV.

The treaty defines tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship expansively to avoid loopholes the tobacco industry could exploit. Thus, a comprehensive ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship applies to all forms of commercial communication, recommendation or action and all forms of contribution to any event, activity or individual with the aim, effect, or likely effect of promoting a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly .

Informed by civil society, treaty negotiators understood that if only certain forms of direct tobacco advertising were prohibited, the tobacco industry would inevitably shift its strategies. The guidelines for treaty implementation warn that—while it may be useful to give examples of prohibited activities—legislation should avoid providing lists that could be seen as exhaustive.

Importantly, the treaty guidelines also specify that corporate promotion by tobacco companies—even without brand names or trademarks—is a form of promotion of tobacco products or tobacco use. Recognizing that “it is increasingly common for tobacco companies to seek to portray themselves as good corporate citizens by making contributions to deserving causes or by otherwise promoting ‘socially responsible’ elements of their business practices,” the treaty guidelines recommend banning tobacco industry public education campaigns.

Note the clear parallel between the tobacco industry’s “youth smoking prevention campaigns ” and today’s ubiquitous greenwashing ad campaigns from fossil fuel giants ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, and Shell touting their “low-carbon solutions” (which are too little, too late).

Who is responsible—and what entities should a ban cover?

Nation-states are ultimately responsible for safeguarding public health and a stable climate. Treaties like the UN FCCC and the WHO FCTC first and foremost bind countries.

The FCTC was groundbreaking in several ways. Not only was it the first legally binding treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO, it also established legal obligations for countries to hold corporations accountable. It built on the WHO’s experience and lessons learned from efforts to limit the abusive and deadly promotion of infant formula to mothers in the Global South through a voluntary code of marketing for breastmilk substitutes.

The WHO FCTC identifies the tobacco industry (including tobacco manufacturers, wholesale distributors, importers, retailers, and their agents and associations) as primarily responsible for tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship—and therefore as the primary objects of the ban.

And the treaty guidelines recognize that other entities involved in tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship should also be held responsible. Plainly, the media is a key enabler of advertising, promotion, and sponsorship of any product, brand, or corporation. Thus, the ban also encompasses persons or entities that produce or publish media content, as well as event organizers, sports stars, and other celebrities.

Fraud is not free speech

The tobacco treaty has a carveout for any state party that is “not in a position to undertake a comprehensive ban due to its constitution or constitutional principles.” But even in countries with strong free speech protections like the First Amendment to the US Constitution, governments have a right—indeed an obligation—to curtail speech that is harmful.

Regardless of constitutional limitations, parties to the global tobacco treaty are required to “prohibit all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship that promote a tobacco product by any means that are false, misleading or deceptive or likely to create an erroneous impression about its characteristics, health effects, hazards or emissions.” In other words, free speech protections are not a license for fraud.

Countries that claim their constitutions don’t allow a comprehensive tobacco ad ban must also require health warnings describing the harmful effects of tobacco use, consistent with those required on product packaging . Evidence shows that effectiveness of health warnings increases with their prominence—which is why graphic warnings are now required on tobacco products in 138 countries and territories .

Ironically, the United States, which lobbied forcefully for the constitutional carveout, is not a party to the WHO FCTC. Nonetheless, the United States eliminated some forms of tobacco advertising through the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with 52 state and territory attorneys general. The settlement prohibited tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship that targets youth; the use of cartoons; tobacco-branded merchandise; and payments for tobacco product placement in media.

US Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco products, enacted in 2009, mandates graphic health warnings on cigarette products and advertisements—but the tobacco industry has delayed implementation through a prolonged legal battle. A recent appeals court ruling affirmed that the warnings are “factual and uncontroversial.”

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently extended the idea of warning labels as a public health protection measure with his proposal for a warning label on social media platforms as a means to address the youth mental health crisis.

In light of clear evidence of the dangerous and deadly effects of fossil fuels, a few jurisdictions around the world have restricted fossil fuel advertising or banned particular ad campaigns, and lawsuits against fossil fuel corporations over deceptive and misleading communications to consumers and investors are gaining momentum.

How was the comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship achieved?

The ban faced fierce and sustained opposition—particularly from Global North countries that are home to the world’s largest and most profitable transnational tobacco corporations: the United States, Japan, and Germany.

Nations of the Global South—from Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, the Pacific and Caribbean Islands—banded together to overcome bullying by wealthy nations and tobacco industry interference and insist on a strong treaty to prevent the export of a preventable epidemic. This dynamic will be familiar to anyone who has followed global climate negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN FCCC).

The inclusion of an ad ban in the global tobacco treaty went hand-in-hand with another precedent-setting provision: Article 5.3 , which obligates parties to protect their public health policies from interference by commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry. Today, Article 5.3 is a cornerstone of treaty implementation and enforcement. [Full disclosure: the organization I previously led, Corporate Accountability, joined with allies in the Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals to center this measure in our advocacy. In 2008 I was the sole civil society representative in the room when parties finalized negotiations on the implementation guidelines.]

Without this obligation, states parties would have faced much stiffer opposition—in the form of tobacco industry lobbying and “corporate social responsibility” campaigns—to the adoption and enforcement of comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.

Overcoming fossil fuel industry interference

The UN FCCC does not have protections like those in Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC against corporate conflicts of interest—at least not yet. But thanks to civil society organizing, we finally have a measure of transparency. After new rules requiring participants in the global climate talks to disclose who they represent took effect last year, we saw record numbers of fossil fuel industry lobbyists at COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This year’s talks in Baku, Azerbaijan—another oil-producing country—promise more of the same.

Like the tobacco epidemic, the climate crisis is a matter of life and death, and the death toll is rising. The best way to save lives is to reduce global warming emissions as quickly as possible—and accelerating a fair phaseout of fossil fuels is essential to turn the emissions curve downward.

As we in the United States plunge into another Danger Season of extreme heat, fire weather, and storms, scientists and activists are mobilizing in a Summer of Heat on Wall Street. Campaigns like this are exactly what’s needed to push political leaders in the United States and worldwide to confront the drivers of the climate crisis. Innovative approaches such as protecting international climate talks from fossil fuel industry interference and banning advertising, promotion, and sponsorship by fossil fuel corporations and their surrogates could be part a suite of urgently needed actions. We no longer have time to tinker around the edges. We must finally address the root cause of the climate emergency: the fossil fuel industry and its enablers.

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Editorial: Shame on California lawmakers for killing fossil fuel divestment bill again

Youth soccer teams practice at a park in the Wilmington neighborhood of Los Angeles in the shadow of an oil refinery.

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In a state whose leaders speak with urgency about fighting climate change, it’s shameful and hypocritical that CalPERS and CalSTRS have billions of dollars in public employees’ retirement money invested in planet-wrecking fossil fuel companies including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Shell.

Lawmakers were considering changing that by forcing the nation’s two largest public pension funds to divest their holdings in big oil, gas and coal companies by 2031. Legislation to do so cleared the state Senate last year. But days before a key hearing in the Committee on Public Employment and Retirement this week, its chair, Tina McKinnor (D- Inglewood), presented the author with a lengthy list of non-negotiable amendments.

For the record:

7:11 a.m. June 21, 2024 A previous version of this editorial said the fossil fuel divestment bill cleared the state Senate last month. It cleared it last year.

FILE - Steam is emitted from smoke stacks at a coal-fired power plant Nov. 17, 2021, in Craig, Colo. President Joe Biden is promising “strong executive action” to combat climate change, despite dual setbacks that have restricted his ability to regulate carbon emissions and boost clean energy such as wind and solar power. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor: I’m on a state pension, and I want California to ditch its fossil fuel investments

A reader who collects a California State Teachers’ Retirement System pension says she has urged the fund to divest from fossil fuel companies for years, to no avail.

Dec. 7, 2023

The demands in the 39-page analysis read like a wish list written by the bill’s opponents, including the oil industry and the pension fund boards. Rather than accept the changes, bill author Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) pulled the measure and says she will try again in the future. It was an understandable move.

The amendments would slash the number of companies and types of investments the pension boards would have to shed. They would push back the deadline to divest to 2045, delay transparency reporting requirements by 20 years and allow the funds to keep making new fossil fuel investments until then.

They’d let them keep fossil fuel investments even beyond 2045, the year California has pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions, if the pension boards determine the companies have made “measurable progress” transitioning from oil and gas. And most bizarrely, the amendments would remove the term “fossil fuel company” from the legislation, which the committee’s analysis described as a “socio-environmental construct that, historically, is used to vilify oil companies and their products,” and replace it with “energy company” instead.

THERMAL, CA - AUGUST 1, 2023: Farmworker Leticia Jimenez, 61, wipes sweat from her forehead as her window air conditioner struggles to put out cool air during extreme hot temperatures at the Oasis Mobile Home Park on August 1, 2023 in Thermal, California. In July, the Coachella Valley experienced 16 days in which temperatures were 115 degrees or higher and 23 days with temperatures 110 degrees or above.The EPA found unsafe levels of arsenic in the water there, so the residents use bottled water.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Editorial: Climate change is making more California homes dangerously hot. It’s time state laws caught up

All California homes need temperature standards to prevent heat wave deaths, not just newly built ones.

June 20, 2024

McKinnor, who blocked the same legislation last year, said in an interview Thursday that she did not meet or negotiate with oil companies about the bill. She said her amendments were intended to be a compromise to benefit public employees and their retirement money, developed after she met with representatives of some of the state’s largest public employee unions that have remained neutral on the bill.

McKinnor wasn’t really offering a compromise, but a poison pill so unreasonable and riddled with loopholes, carve outs and delays it would be inaccurate to call it fossil fuel divestment.

That shouldn’t deter divestment supporters, including educators, state workers and youth activists and environmentalists who held a rally Wednesday and vowed not to back down from the fight.

WILMINGTON, CA -- TUESDAY, MARCH 1, 2016 -- The Phillips 66 refinery looms over a Wilmington neighborhood where some long-time residents feel their health issues might stem from their proximity to the refinery. The Union Oil Company of California built the original refinery in 1919 between the old Anaheim road and the port, years before homes were constructed to form the neighborhood. ( Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times )

Editorial: CalPERS must ditch fossil fuel investments. Its new ‘sustainable’ plan doesn’t do that

The nation’s largest public pension fund offers a weak strategy for reaching a net-zero portfolio, perhaps to head off legislation forcing it to divest from oil companies and other air-polluting industries.

Dec. 3, 2023

They have solid financial arguments on their side, including the experience of other big institutional investors such as New York City’s public pension funds and the University of California that have already concluded that fossil fuel investments are too volatile and that their portfolios will do as well or better without them.

California leaders must show they are more than just talk when it comes to climate change and start to ditch dirty, dangerous fossil fuel investments. It’s a smart move not only because these holdings are financially risky in a world that’s shifting to renewable energy, but on moral grounds. It’s wrong to use the retirement money of teachers, firefighters and state workers to support a deceitful industry that profits off environmental destruction and human suffering. It’s why CalPERS divested from tobacco producers, gun manufacturers and thermal coal companies years ago.

If committee leadership won’t give real fossil fuel divestment legislation a fair shake in the future, Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) should step in and make sure a proposal advances to a floor vote.

California can’t be a climate leader if it continues to prop up harmful and reckless fossil fuel companies whose pollution threatens to consign future generations to an unlivable planet. To end their stranglehold on the public, we have to let them go.

More to Read

SIO figure: fine-scale (6 km) projected changes in California’s average hottest day of the year by the end of this century

Oil industry asks Supreme Court to block climate change lawsuits from California, other states

June 4, 2024

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - OCT. 4, 2022. Youth soccer teams practice at Wilmington Waterfront Park in the shadow of the Conoco Phillips refinery. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Editorial: California can make climate polluters pay for the mess they have made of Earth

May 21, 2024

Exxon Mobil Chairman & CEO Darren Woods listens during a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, not shown, at the Zhongnanhai Leadership Compound in Beijing, Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool)

Column: In a major rebuke to Exxon Mobil, CalPERS will vote against its entire board

May 20, 2024

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FILE -Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry signs bills related to his education plan on Wednesday, June 19, 2024, at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Lafayette, La. Louisiana has become the first state to require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom, the latest move from a GOP-dominated Legislature pushing a conservative agenda under a new governor. (Brad Bowie/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP, File)

Editorial: Supreme Court should not approve Louisiana’s provocative Ten Commandments law

June 25, 2024

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 03: FOR FILE ART - LAPD recruit class 11-23 graduation ceremony at the Los Angeles Police Academy in Los Angeles, CA on Friday, May 3, 2024. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Editorial: Los Angeles City Council may be on verge of bungling police accountability — again

June 24, 2024

A homeless man walks with his dog along a street in the Skid Row section on Los Angeles on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Editorial: Lack of housing is pushing more seniors onto the streets. That’s on all of us

Nicole Capretz, founder and executive director of Climate Action Campaign, rides her electric bike to work on October 10, 2019 in San Diego, California.

Editorial: Why should a driver’s license be required for jobs that don’t involve driving?

June 23, 2024

All cars that burn fossil fuels should be banned and electric cars should replace them. Do you agree or disagree?

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Writing9 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Include an introduction and conclusion

A conclusion is essential for IELTS writing task 2. It is more important than most people realise. You will be penalised for missing a conclusion in your IELTS essay.

The easiest paragraph to write in an essay is the conclusion paragraph. This is because the paragraph mostly contains information that has already been presented in the essay – it is just the repetition of some information written in the introduction paragraph and supporting paragraphs.

The conclusion paragraph only has 3 sentences:

  • Restatement of thesis
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To summarize, a robotic teacher does not have the necessary disciple to properly give instructions to students and actually works to retard the ability of a student to comprehend new lessons. Therefore, it is clear that the idea of running a classroom completely by a machine cannot be supported. After thorough analysis on this subject, it is predicted that the adverse effects of the debate over technology-driven teaching will always be greater than the positive effects, and because of this, classroom teachers will never be substituted for technology.

Start your conclusion with a linking phrase. Here are some examples:

  • In conclusion
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Many children no longer read books and instead spend their time using modern technology. While some people think this is a positive trend, others think it is a problem. Discuss both sides and give your opinion.

You have arranged a meeting with a business partner. unfortunately, you have to change the arrangement. write a letter to your business partner. in your letter, ● apologise for the changes ● explain the reason why the changes were needed ● explain the new arrangement, men and women can never share the same responsibilities at home and in everyday life. do you agree or disagree use specific reasons and details to support your answer., 3. some people think it is one of the best ways to solve the environmental problems by increasing the cost of fuel for cars and other vehicles.to what extent do you agree or disagree, some people view teenage conflict with their parents as a necessary part of growing up, whilst others see it as something negative which should be avoided. discuss both views and give your own opinion..

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↓ Here comes the sun

The past and a possible future.

should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

Global useful energy consumption*


Terawatt hours, ’000

Sources: Rupert Way; Our World in Data

*Primary energy adjusted for waste-heat losses

†From Way et al. (2022)

‡Electricity-conversion technologies (eg green hydrogen)

should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

terawatt hours, ’000


should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

↓ Sun seekers

Sunlight and solar capacity.

should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

Solar capacity*

Gigawatts, Q1 2024

*Total within 8,500km 2 grid cell

Sources: Global Solar Atlas; TransitionZero

Global horizontal irradiation

2022, KWh/m 2 per day

should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

*Total within 8,500km 2 grid cell Sources: Global Solar Atlas; TransitionZero

should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

*Total within 8,5002km 2 grid cell Sources: Global Solar Atlas; TransitionZero

should we ban the use of fossil fuels essay

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    We make the case for this norm in three steps. First, we show that no new fossil fuel projects are needed in a 1.5°C world: Existing fossil fuel capital stock is sufficient to meet energy demand in representative scenarios aligned with the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Second, we explain why preventing new fossil ...

  13. Fossil Fuels: Bad for the climate, bad full stop

    Fossil fuels pollution is bad for health . The combustion of fossil fuels causes air pollution, which contributed to 1.2 million deaths in 2020 alone. Flaring and other processing activities also release toxic air pollutants that harm the health of workers and neighbouring communities. As well as being used to produce energy, fossil fuels are ...

  14. I know that if we stop burning fossil fuels, it will reduce carbon

    Reducing fossil fuel use is not just a long-term investment to slow climate change—it also protects human health and environmental ecosystems, saving lives almost immediately. February 9, 2021. Fossil fuels are a cheap and reliable way to produce energy.

  15. Why ending our dependence on fossil fuels is so challenging

    A study published in September found that a vast majority of Earth's remaining fossil fuels must remain underground by 2050 to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, including worsening ...

  16. Messages about harms of fossil fuels increase support for renewables

    We are pleased to share the findings of a new study, conducted in collaboration with the Center for Public Engagement with Science at the University of Cincinnati. This study examines the persuasive effects of moral appeals on public support for the transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.

  17. Don't Ban Fossil Fuels: Absolutism In Climate Change Policy ...

    The reason why this matters is that some uses of fossil fuels are harder to eliminate than others and, indeed, some can be beneficial to the climate. The U.S., despite the past administration's ...

  18. World's governments must wind down fossil fuel production by 6 ...

    The only way out of this trap is diversification of these economies beyond fossil fuels. Alas, in 2020 we saw many governments doubling down on fossil fuels and entrenching these vulnerabilities even more," said Ivetta Gerasimchuk, a lead author of the report and the lead for sustainable energy supplies at IISD. "Instead, governments should ...

  19. Could the U.S. Ban Fossil Fuel Ads?

    Amsterdam became the world's first city to ban ads from fossil fuel and aviation companies in 2021. And France became the first country to ban certain advertisements for fossil fuels in 2022.

  20. Banning the sale of fossil-fuel cars benefits the ...

    To have the desired effect, a ban would either need to be introduced earlier, by the year 2025, or, if the ban is not brought in until 2030, then the use of biofuels in petrol and diesel cars ...

  21. Data: Banning U.S. fossil fuel consumption wouldn't stop climate change

    The European Union also has plans to go "zero carbon" by 2050. This would have even less effect on the temperature, given that the EU collectively emits about a third less carbon dioxide than the U.S. Those who want to ban our most affordable, reliable, abundant source of fuel might be surprised to know that banning fossil fuels and going ...

  22. Climate change: Ban fossil fuel advertising says UN chief

    Getty. The world's fossil fuel industries should be banned from advertising to help save the world from climate change, the head of the United Nations said on Wednesday. UN Secretary General ...

  23. Recycling Is Broken. Should I Even Bother?

    Almost three dozen countries in Africa have banned single-use plastics. And 170 countries have pledged to " significantly reduce " the use of plastics by 2030.

  24. 'Watershed moment' for fossil fuels at Supreme Court

    FoE called the ruling "groundbreaking", and "a heavy blow" for the fossil fuel industry. The judgment is very clear that the inevitability of the end-use emissions of this oil project meant they were indirect effects of the development, and so needed to be factored into the environmental impact assessment, FoE pointed out in a statement.

  25. Taking a Lesson from the Tobacco Ad Ban to Shut Down Fossil Fuel

    In light of clear evidence of the dangerous and deadly effects of fossil fuels, a few jurisdictions around the world have restricted fossil fuel advertising or banned particular ad campaigns, and lawsuits against fossil fuel corporations over deceptive and misleading communications to consumers and investors are gaining momentum.

  26. Why some cities are banning fossil fuel advertisements

    A local ban on fossil fuel advertisements might seem minor at a time when carbon emissions — and temperatures — continue to march upward. But there is evidence that sweeping advertising bans ...

  27. Editorial: Shame on California lawmakers for killing fossil fuel

    Legislation to divest billions of dollars in pension funds for California public workers and teachers from fossil fuel companies failed again. But climate change isn't waiting.

  28. All cars that burn fossil fuels should be banned and ...

    There are drastic changes that have been noticed in the environment over the years and one of them is a continual diminishing of fossil fuels hence if we ban cars that burn fossil fuel then it would be a great step towards preserving the same. So, I completely in agreement with the idea that all such cars should be replaced with electric cars as it would preserve fossil fuels and save our ...

  29. New York lawmakers threaten to ban insurance for fossil fuel projects

    Fossil fuels account for over 80 percent of total energy in the United States and 60 percent of our electricity. According to some estimates, oil and natural gas will comprise 60 percent of total ...

  30. Sun Machines

    This is the logic which has led Ethiopia to ban the import of vehicles which use internal combustion. ... as fossil fuels do, Jevons's "rebound effect" can be a source of environmental worry ...