Environmental Science and Engineering Seminar
How much oil, gas, and coal will be burned in the long run? How long will our fossil fuels last? The conventional wisdom today is that even with a large expansion in production, there would be no significant pressure on supplies for more than 100 years. For example, in the IPCC climate assessment report this year, carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil fuels in the business-as-usual scenario do not decline until after 2150. In this paper, I will show that there is little historical evidence that supports this assumption of enormous resources. On the contrary, I will argue that the historical experience suggests that it is more likely that fossil-fuel production will be in a substantial decline in the second half of this century. This may be the "Goldilocks" outcome, slow enough to allow the development of alternative energy, but fast enough to mitigate climate impacts.