Letting sleeping fossil fuel stores lie is not something that Big Oil is too keen about doing. If you were sitting on top of a gold mine, would you be inclined to simply not do anything about it? Probably not. But what if someone told you that if you touched that gold you were sitting on that the world as you know it would be completely destroyed? You’d think twice before grabbing a shovel for sure.

We know that digging up fossil fuels and burning them contributes to climate change – Leonardo DiCaprio even explained it to us once – but knowledge of consequences does not always mean action. Especially when money is involved. We know that if a certain amount of carbon is burned and sent into the atmosphere that we will push the global temperature rise over two degrees … and if that happens we will see the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

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What did not know previously is the precise amount of fossil fuels that we would need to keep underground to avoid this extreme fate. However, a paper released in the journal Nature, has just made it very clear. If we want to avoid the worst effects of global climate change we have to keep 80 percent of coal, 50 percent of oil, and about 30 percent of gas reserves in the ground before 2050.

That’s right, board up the mines, shut down the fracking sites and close the well taps. These reserves need to stay right where they are. If we fail to do so, we will far surpass warming over two degrees and enter into five degree territory. That will mean the planet will be warmer than is has ever been in human history. We have it easy compared to the cavemen, but the threat of a markedly warmer world might just throw us back into that dark era.

At a time where there is a continual debate over whether the Keystone XL Pipeline should be approved and oil and gas companies are spending millions of dollars to explore new, untapped resources, this information needs to be heard.

We can’t continue to dredge up the fossil fuel reserves for profit, we need to close the doors to our oil cellar and look for truly clean, renewable energy sources.

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“Given these numbers, it makes literally no sense for the industry to go hunting for more fossil fuel,” says environmental advocate, Bill McKibben to The Guardian,“We’ve binged to the edge of our own destruction. The last thing we need now is to find a few more liquor stores to loot.”

Image source: mrpbps/Flickr