Launch of the world’s first public fossil fuel database

AP Science Writer

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

The Global Fossil Fuel Register includes data from more than 50,000 oil, gas and coal deposits in 89 countries. This covers 75% of global reserves, production and emissions, and is available for public use, a first for a collection of this size.

Until now, private data was available for purchase and analyzes of global fossil fuel use and reserves. The International Energy Agency also maintains public data on oil, gas and coal, but it focuses on the demand for these fossil fuels, while this new database looks at what has yet to be seen. been burned.

The register was developed by Carbon Tracker, a nonprofit think tank that studies the effect of the energy transition on financial markets, and the Global Energy Monitor, an organization that tracks a variety of energy projects around the world.

Companies, investors and scientists already have some level of access to private fossil fuel data. Mark Campanale, founder of Carbon Tracker, said he hopes the registry will enable groups to hold governments accountable, for example, when issuing licenses for fossil fuel extraction.

“Civil society groups need to focus more on what governments plan to do in terms of licensing, both for coal, oil and gas, and start challenging that licensing process,” Campanale told The Associated Press.

The release of the database and a related analysis of the data collected coincides with two critical rounds of international climate talks – the UN General Assembly in New York from September 13 and COP27 in Sharm el- Sheikh, Egypt, November. Data like what is published in the register could arm environmental and climate groups to pressure national leaders into agreeing to tougher policies that lead to lower carbon emissions.

And we urgently need carbon reductions, Campanale said.

In their analysis of the data, the developers found that the United States and Russia have enough fossil fuels still untapped underground to deplete the world’s remaining carbon budget. This is the remaining carbon the world can afford to emit before some warming occurs, in this case 1.5 degrees Celsius. It also shows that these reserves would generate 3.5 trillion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, more than all emissions produced since the industrial revolution.

“We already have enough extractable fossil fuels to cook the planet. We can’t afford to use all of them – or almost none of them at this point. We don’t have time to build new things the old ways anymore,” said Rob Jackson, a Stanford University climatologist who was not involved with the database.

“I like the emphasis on transparency in fossil fuel production and reserves, down to specific projects. It’s a unique aspect of the job.

Jackson compared the global carbon budget to a bathtub.

“You can only run the water so long before the tub overflows,” he said. When the tub is about to overflow, he said, governments can turn off the tap (mitigate greenhouse gas emissions) or open the tub drain further (remove carbon from the atmosphere ).

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

Campanale said the hope is that the investment community, “who ultimately own these companies,” will use the data to start challenging the investment plans of companies still considering expanding their oil, gas projects. and charcoal burners.

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


Follow Drew Costley on Twitter: @drewcostley.


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