Campaigners against fossil fuel extraction have called for a block on UK oil and gas developments following the latest scientific report on climate change, published this morning.
The study, from the Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change (IPCC), is described by the UN Secretary-General Antonia Guterres as a “code red for humanity”.
It warns that humans have caused ‘unprecedented’ and ‘irreversible’ change to climate.
The damage to the climate caused by human activity is a “statement of fact” and “it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land”.
“Human induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe.”
The report looks at the impacts of limiting global warming of 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. It is the first of its kind since 2013 and reviewed more than 14,000 scientific papers. It has been endorsed by national governments.
The key findings of the report
- The 1.5C increase could be reached by 2031
- A 2m rise in sea levels by the end of the century cannot be ruled out
- But deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions could stabilise rising temperatures
The IPCC warns:
“Unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reduction in greenhouse gas emissions limiting warming to 1.5 degrees will be beyond reach”.
If emissions do not fall in the next two decades, then a 3C rise looks likely and if there is no fall then the world is on track for a 4C to 5C rise.
The report said global surface temperature was 1.09C higher in the decade between 2011-2020 than between 1850-1900.
The past five years have been the hottest on record since 1850. The recent rate of sea level rise has nearly tripled compared with 1901-1971.
Human influence is “very likely” (90%) the main driver of the global retreat of glaciers since the 1990s and the decrease in Arctic sea-ice.
Antonia Guterres said:
“[This report] is a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”
He added on a statement:
“Countries should also end all new fossil fuel exploration and production, and shift fossil fuel subsidies into renewable energy.”
The UK onshore industry regularly argues that domestically—produced fossil fuels have a lower carbon footprint, compared with some imports. It also points to a potential role for UK onshore methane in producing fossil hydrogen.
But campaign groups were quick to respond today to the report and its warnings.
Free East Yorkshire urged people to object to plans by Rathlin Energy for an expansion of exploration and production in Holderness. The group’s spokesperson, Richard Howarth, said:
“Even as our climate breaks down around us with biblical fires and floods raging all around, plans are made to industrialise the East Yorkshire countryside into an oil and gas field, developing brand new sources of filthy, outdated fossil fuels. In 2021. It’s utter madness. This new IPCC report makes it clearer than ever: for our very survival, we need to stop all new oil drilling. Now.
The more people object, the more chance it will be stopped. We encourage everyone, everywhere to take 5 minutes to submit a one-word comment: Object.”
David Burley, of Frack Free South Yorkshire, said:
“For companies wishing to explore and produce shale gas in the UK it is too late. Game over. Time to relinquish those UK shale gas licences.”
Connor Schwartz, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:
“Every fraction of a degree now matters more than ever. Loud wake-up calls have been sounding for years but world leaders have chronically over-slept, and people are paying the price with their lives.
“If we want a habitable planet, the window is just about still open, that’s today’s report in a nutshell.
“If the government wants to show they respect the world’s leading scientists on climate chaos, they can start by cancelling the Cambo oil field, scrapping the coal mine in Cumbria, and ending UK funding for the mega-gas project in Mozambique: they can do that today.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland’s climate and energy campaigner, Caroline Rance, said:
“This report should make alarming reading for everyone on earth. The conclusions of the world’s best scientists make it clear that if we are to avert further climate breakdown we must urgently phase out fossil fuels. That means rejecting new oil and gas developments like the Cambo field and for Governments to sit down with workers and communities to plan a fair transition away from oil and gas.
“The Scottish Government should be acting on the advice of these climate scientists not listening to oil companies and big polluters who are putting their profits above the survival of millions of people.”
Last week, an open letter signed by 80,000 people was delivered to Downing Street urging the UK Government to stop the vast new Cambo oil field off Shetland. The field contains around 800 million barrels of oil and the first phase of its development would create pollution equivalent to 16 coal fired power stations.
Onshore, as well as Rathlin Energy expansion proposals, there are schemes going through the planning system for oil and gas operations in Surrey and the Isle of Wight (UK Oil & Gas plc), Rotherham (Ineos), Cheshire (IGas). Angus Energy is planning to revive gas production at Saltfleetby in Lincolnshire and Egdon Resources is preparing for oil production at Wressle, near Scunthorpe.
Yesterday, Alok Sharma, the chair of the COP26 climate conference in November, described the report as “the starkest warning yet” and that the world would face “catastrophe” if urgent action was not taken.
But he did not rule out future oil and gas licences. He told the Observer:
“Future licences are going to have to adhere to the fact we have committed to go to net zero by 2050 in legislation.
“There will be a climate check on any licences.”
Today, Boris Johnson said:
“Today’s report makes for sobering reading, and it is clear that the next decade is going to be pivotal to securing the future of our planet…I hope today’s report will be a wake-up call for the world to take action now, before we meet in Glasgow in November for the critical COP26 summit.“
Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said:
“This is not the first generation of world leaders to be warned by scientists about the gravity of the climate crisis, but they’re the last that can afford to ignore them. The increasing frequency, scale and intensity of climate disasters that have scorched and flooded many parts of the world in recent months is the result of past inaction. Unless world leaders finally start to act on these warnings, things will get much, much worse.”
Ruth Hayhurst will be sending reports for DrillOrDrop from the COP26 conference in Glasgow in November .