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Opinion: COP28 – you can’t argue with the laws of physics

Opinion: COP28 – you can’t argue with the laws of physics

Sultan Al Jaber is the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and served as the President of COP28. Photo credit: AFP.

By Anders Lorenzen

Life on Earth is, however much we try to live in ways that do not match reality, still within some constraints.

All the resources of our planet do have their limits even though they are renewable resources. Fossil fuels as the name suggests had their beginning in the fossil age. The energy sources we now know as coal, oil and gas were generated from decaying biomass, and started millions of years ago long before the first humans emerged. But in the fraction of time that it took to generate those resources humanity is on course to use up.

The pressing and urgent issue of climate change which, for the past two weeks, world leaders have been working to deal with even though, of course, eventually the world will run out of fossil fuels. There’s a big difference of opinion regarding how much is left and when this will happen.

But one thing is for sure: if we insist on extracting and burning every single unit of coal, oil and gas, humanity will no doubt have sealed its fate.

Finite resources

But listening to the big fossil fuel interests at COP28, mainly Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the oil cartel, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) it appears that we have unlimited resources of fossil fuels. In reality, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually the world will run out of fossil fuels, and when that happens we had better be prepared.

It is simply intelligent to plan that we must phase out fossil fuels, and daft that many of those fossil fuel interests have refused to commit.

Saudi Arabia and the hosts from UAE have been trying to explain, leading up to and during the summit, that it is not about curtailing and reducing oil and gas demand but reducing emissions. And that we can, of course, continue to expand oil and gas production while cutting emissions.

But what planet are they on – and are they for real?

They have been putting all their bets on the largely unproven carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

They have completely misunderstood what the (United Nations) UN and the International Energy Agency (IEA) have said about the technology, and that it should not be an excuse for continuing business-as-usual fossil fuel production. CCS should be used in conjunction with massively scaling up renewable energy production while scaling down fossil fuel production.

We know the fossil fuel sector is on borrowed time, but by refusing to agree to a text that sets out that eventually those energy sources must be phased out it is clear who the real dinosaurs are.

Meanwhile, the world’s poorest communities are, daily, having to wave goodbye to their homes as a result of the inaction of world leaders as climate impacts are speeding up year on year.

The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stone, nor will the fossil fuel age end because we ran out of fossil fuel, but because of better alternatives.

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