Letter: The heavy price of fossil fuels

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has advocated an urgent 60 to 80 per cent cut in emissions of greenhouse gases in order to stabilise the Earth's climate. Richard D North ("Campaigners who blend reason with grandstanding", 5 June) failed to mention this, thus removing the context for Greenpeace's argument.

Using the computer models on which scientists base their predictions of climate change, Greenpeace estimates that no more than 225 billion tonnes of carbon can be burned if global warming is to be limited to an increase of one degree centigrade. (The United Nations Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gasses concluded that temperature increases beyond 1C may lead to extensive ecological damage).

The total amount of fossil fuels currently due to be extracted is 1,000 billion tonnes, which if burned would result in an unacceptable temperature rise. But this is only a fraction of the fossil fuels thought to exist in the Earth, a staggering 4,000 billion tonnes.

Regardless of whether the Atlantic frontier would play only a marginal role in the world demand for oil, the UK should behave responsibly and refrain from exploiting this region for fossil fuels. So far, BP and Shell have paid lip service, but nothing else, to the "dilemma" of exploiting fossil fuel reserves.


(former Shell exploration geophysicist)

Southampton Green Party