Carbon dioxide emission scenarios: limitations of the fossil fuel resource

CL Vernon, E Thompson, SE Cornell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

14 Citations (Scopus)


Contemporary increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration are in large part the result of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion. Scenario analysis is commonly used to generate projections of future carbon dioxide emissions, the resulting atmospheric concentrations and climate impact. In most scenario modelling published to date, carbon dioxide emission scenarios are based on demand-side (socioeconomic and technology) factors. The fossil fuel resource is assumed ample enough that supply-side factors do not drive future emission scenarios. This review of the literature on non-renewable resource extraction rate modelling and empirical studies of the global fossil fuel resource base suggests this assumption is unsafe. Supply-side factors can be expected to drive extraction rates and therefore carbon dioxide emissions as fossil fuel resources become significantly depleted. It is likely that the future carbon dioxide emission trajectory will become dominated by supply-side factors during the 21st century. By omitting this possibility, most scenario analysis is too narrow. An implication of such narrow scenario analysis is that policy driven by the UNFCCC‟s agreement to “avoid dangerous climate change” targets only demand-side factors to the exclusion of supply-side factors. As supply-side factors come to drive the carbon dioxide emission trajectory, policy focus should switch from demand-side factors to supply-side factors.
Translated title of the contributionCarbon dioxide emission scenarios: limitations of the fossil fuel resource
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationQUEST/AIMES OSC, Earth System Science 2010, Edinburgh, 10-13 May 2010
EditorsS. Cornell, C. Downy, M Rounsevell
Pages206 - 215
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

Conference Proceedings/Title of Journal: Procedia Environmental Sciences
Conference Organiser: QUEST

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