The Shocking Price of Burning Fossil Fuels

Emissions would stay in the atmosphere for more than 5,000 years.

Published: 31-May-2007

Burning all known reserves of fossil fuels, from Alberta's tarsands to China's vast stores of coal, would have much graver long-term consequences than previously thought, according to climate scientists.

"Not only are we going to mess up our kids' and grandkids' lives, we are going to be interfering with the way the planet works for thousands of years," says climate scientist Alvaro Montenegro, noting that much of the carbon emissions would persist in the atmosphere more than 5,000 years and drive up global temperatures for millennia.

Using sophisticated computer models, Montenegro and colleagues at the University of Victoria and the University of Chicago assessed the impact of consuming all known reserves of fossil fuels until they run out in 2300. Their simulations assume that the carbon dioxide producing by burning the fuel would waft into the atmosphere as it does today.


A national Low Carbon Fuel Standard would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and America's dependence on foreign oil without requiring new government spending.


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