By Anni Piiroinen, Politics and Theater Student
The concept of a carbon bubble was created in 2011 by think-tank Carbon Tracker in their report ‘Unburnable Carbon’. It is based on the mismatch between a) the amount of CO2 represented by fossil fuels found so far, and b) the amount of CO2 that we are able to emit if we aim to limit global warming to 2°C. In the Cancun agreements of 2010, during the UN climate talks, governments pledged to the limit of 2°C, in order to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change. According to the Potsdam Climate Institute, staying under 2°C requires capping global carbon emissions in 2000-2050 at 886 GtCO2 (gigatonnes of carbon equivalent). A third of this ‘carbon budget’ had already been used by 2011, leaving us with 565 GtCO2 to last until 2050. However, the total potential emissions of current fossil fuel reserves were calculated to be 2795 Gt CO2, almost five times more than the carbon budget allows us to burn before 2050. This mismatch is represented by Carbon Tracker in the figure below.
Source: Carbon Tracker Initiative, ‘Unburnable Carbon’.