Leaving fossil fuels in the ground, learning to live without them, that is the simple principle that can guide us out of the current maze where we make the climate crisis worse and worse. If you want to solve a problem completely, you should go to the root of the problem. With climate change, the root of the problem is burning fossil fuels. There are some other contributors to global warming, but the key is that we dig or pump up oil, gas and coal and burn it. And this has become so widespread practice in the last decades, that for most people it is difficult to imagine that one could live in a different way. If you take the smoke stacks out of the picture, it feels as if something is missing. That is because we are born and raised in the fossil age. And this fossil age has to come to an end as quickly as possible, in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. With our climate targets, namely 2°C maximum warming or even 1.5°C maximum warming, there is no leeway for continuing the fossil society. Complete decarbonization has to be swiftly accomplished over the next two-three decades. And it can be.
Even conventional reserves are so plentyful that we will pass critical thresholds if we extract all of them. On top of that, the fossil frontier is currently pushed even further in the form of extreme extraction such as fracking, tar sands, Arctic drilling, etc. If we allow this, even more people will get addicted to a fossil energy based lifestyle (mainly by constructing infrastructure that relies on fossil energy, not a physical addiction). This is crazy and should be stopped. We already know better. Zero carbon lifestyles have not only been the standard for most of human history, they are also fully in our reach if we make a dedicated effort to transforming our cities and lifestyles. This is a common task to our generation. Good living with zero fossils is definitely possible and transitioning is urgent. As the inspiring examples from Samoa to Oakland and Ethiopia to Australia show, our generation is slowly but surely waking up to this task. It is already happening in many places. Let’s leave the fossils in the ground!