DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — A University of Dayton researcher helped lead a study showing how the actions of major oil companies are incompatible with the Paris Agreement’s climate goals.
The Paris Agreement is an international treaty with the goal of limiting global warming.
The agreement unites all nations for a common cause to undertake efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, according to the United Nations.
However, University of Dayton Director of Sustainability Bob Brecha said that major oil companies are obstructing this environmental effort. Brecha has been a visiting scientist at Berlin-based Climate Analytics, lead institution for the study.
“Most of the scenarios we evaluated would be classified as inconsistent with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels,” Brecha said.
“Energy system transformation is critical to reaching the Paris Agreement’s warming limit, and decision-makers need sound and transparent scientific assessments.”
The study analyzed six scenarios from oil companies such as BP, Equinor, Royal Dutch Shell and the International Energy Agency published between 2020 and mid-2021.
Researchers like Brecha aimed to provide this transparency by comparing those scenarios to scenarios assessed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to evaluate peak and end-of-century temperatures.
Equinor’s “Rebalance” scenario peaks at a median warming of 1.73°C above pre-industrial levels in 2060, BP’s “Rapid” at 1.73°C in 2058, Shell’s “Sky” at 1.81°C in 2069, and the International Energy Agency sustainable development scenario at 1.78°C in 2056. BP’s Net Zero scenario results in a median peak warming of 1.65°C. Only the IEA Net Zero 2050 scenario aligns with Paris Agreement goals, according to the study.
“Fossil fuel companies claim that we can continue to burn oil and gas while keeping to the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit, and they cite their own scenarios as justification,” said Bill Hare, CEO and senior scientist at Climate Analytics.
“But our research shows that their pathways would bust the Paris Agreement. Even temporarily exceeding the 1.5°C warming would lead to catastrophic impacts and severely weaken our ability to adapt to climate change.”
The study also makes available tools for researchers and policymakers to assess on an equal footing the Paris Agreement claims made for scenarios published by public, commercial and academic institutions.
“Institutional assessments have historically been opaque on climate outcomes. Our study provides a direct line of sight from pathways to temperature,” said Matthew Gidden, a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, a scientific adviser at Climate Analytics and a lead author with Brecha on the study.
“Governments should use these tools to carry out a robust assessment of the energy-system transformation to meet the Paris Agreement goals.”
The authors conclude that their findings underscore how scenario pathways that delay reductions in fossil fuel consumption run the risk of overshooting the 1.5 degrees Celsius . They argue that more transparency is needed on the part of energy sector actors to provide a full picture on the climate outcomes of the scenarios they produce.
Brecha also works in the University of Dayton’s Hanley Sustainability Institute and teaches in the School of Engineering’s renewable and clean energy graduate program. From 2006 to 2017 he was a regular visiting scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, according to the university.
Since 2018, he has been affiliated with Climate Analytics, including a two-year European Union Marie Curie Fellowship to research sustainable energy access and system transformation in least-developed countries and small island developing states.