Constraints of fossil fuels depletion on global warming projections

Luca Chiari, Antonio Zecca

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    118 Citations (Scopus)


    A scientific debate is in progress about the intersection of climate change with the new field of fossil fuels depletion geology. Here, new projections of atmospheric CO2 concentration and global-mean temperature change are presented, should fossil fuels be exploited at a rate limited by geological availability only. The present work starts from the projections of fossil energy use, as obtained from ten independent sources. From such projections an upper bound, a lower bound and an ensemble mean profile for fossil CO2 emissions until 2200 are derived. Using the coupled gas-cycle/climate model MAGICC, the corresponding climatic projections out to 2200 are obtained. We find that CO2 concentration might increase up to about 480ppm (445-540ppm), while the global-mean temperature increase w.r.t. 2000 might reach 1.2°C (0.9-1.6°C). However, future improvements of fossil fuels recovery and discoveries of new resources might lead to higher emissions; hence our climatic projections are likely to be underestimated. In the absence of actions of emissions reduction, a level of dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system might be already experienced toward the middle of the 21st century, despite the constraints imposed by the exhaustion of fossil fuels.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)5026-5034
    Number of pages9
    JournalEnergy Policy
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011


    • Climatic projections
    • Emissions scenarios
    • Fossil fuels depletion


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