If existing sources of fossil fuel emissions (like factories, cars, and power plants) simply continue to operate for the duration of their expected lifetime, the world will emit more than 650 billion tons of carbon dioxide, according to the study published Monday in the journal Nature. That’s 78 billion tons more than the maximum the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says can be emitted to have a reasonable chance of not exceeding 1.5 degrees of warming.
“We really need to try to avoid building anything new that uses fossil fuels whenever possible, going forward,” said Steven Davis, a co-author of the study and an associate professor at U.C. Irvine’s Earth System Science program. In addition, some existing infrastructure will need to be retired early (or retrofitted to capture their carbon emissions), according to the research.”