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Map Shows Where Fossil Fuels Should Stay in the Ground

Words by Nithin Coca
Energy & Environment
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We know that we need to keep the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Now, a new project from the University of Arizona shows us exactly where we need to keep these fuels in the ground.

The Climate Alliance Mapping Project (CAMP) is a huge undertaking, aiming to be a resource that includes quantitative and qualitative data. From the Public Political Ecology Lab blog:

"The map displays four layers of data: fossil fuel reserves, protected areas, indigenous territory, and digital stories from communities on the front lines of fossil fuel extraction. By highlighting zones of overlap between these layers, CAMP suggests that ecologically and culturally sensitive regions are priority zones for keeping fossil fuels in the ground."

The map now covers the Amazon river basin – one of the most crucial habitats on the planet, where, frankly, there should be absolutely no drilling or mining for fossil fuels. But the developers plan to expand CAMP to cover the entire Americas, with all of North America coming in phase two. If resources allow, the development team hopes to expand the project globally.

This is an invaluable resource, as it makes the connection clear between the agreed-upon global climate goals and the fossil fuels we need to keep in the ground. CAMP also makes it clear that the huge valuations in most fossil fuels companies are based on false promises. There is no way we can drill or mine all of that oil, gas and coal. If we do, we'll face certain economic disaster from climate change, which would also hurt these very companies.

This is why the divestment movement is calling on more institutions to avoid this risk -- and pull their money from fossil fuel companies.

Thankfully, an entire movement has emerged focused on this sole goal: to keep it in the ground.

“Anyone who does the math of climate change knows we need to keep most fossil fuel underground,” Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, said in a press statement. This past February, 350.org joined with other environmental groups and several members of Congress to introduce an aptly titled Keep It In the Ground Act, which would prohibit new leases for coal, oil and gas on all United States federal lands and waters.

“We have a concrete plan to help meet the climate goals set in Paris and accelerate our transition onto clean, renewable energy," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune in a press statement. "We should seize this opportunity, and lead the world in the fight against climate disruption by keeping dirty fuels where they belong -- in the ground."

With CAMP, the increasing data connecting this year's record warmth to climate change, and the Paris Agreement, we really have no excuse anymore. It's time to commit -- nationally and globally -- to #KeepItInTheGround.

Image credit: Nestor Galina via Wikimedia Commons, Screenshot from Public Political Ecology Lab

Nithin Coca

Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on environmental, social, and economic issues around the world, with specific expertise in Southeast Asia.

Read more stories by Nithin Coca