This scenario is important to scientists. It focuses minds on the unthinkable and how to avoid it. According to a provocative new analysis from the University of British Columbia, it’s also wrong.
This is good news. The researchers contend that current goals of reducing coal, oil and gas consumption may be closer than we think, thus allowing us to set the bar even higher in our efforts to reduce pollution. The bad news is that this is good news in the way a destabilizing climate-shift is preferable to planetary extinction: We are still in a lot of trouble. Nevertheless, if the study is verified by other scientists and catches a wave into the realm of policy makers, it could help accelerate initiatives to arrest global warming.
The basic issue has to do with coal. Quite simply, the more we burn, the faster we destroy the atmosphere. The darkest scenario assumes much more coal burning will take place in this century than is likely to happen, according to the study’s authors. Their first paper, published in May, made it seem like the only people who see more coal use than the Trump administration are climate-scenario designers. For example, the most extreme worst-case storyline assumes that by 2100 coal would grow to 94 percent of the world energy supply. In 2015, that figure was about 28 percent.