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Debate rages over fossil fuels

Global warming 'is a reality'  

How much the burning of fossil fuels is increasing global warming is still a matter of debate among scientists.

But even major oil companies admit that the balance of scientific evidence suggests a link between human activities -- especially the burning of coal, oil, and gas -- and climate change.

Shell, one of the world's largest oil producers, is backing the cuts in fuel emissions outlined by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

The company says: "Global warming is a reality. But the challenge for today's scientists is to establish whether the temperature rises we have seen during this century are part of longer-term natural fluctuations, or caused by human activities.

graphic Climate change

  • Bonn deal: Main points
  • Q&A: Climate change
  • Greenhouse effect
  • Regional consequences
  • Fossil fuel debate
  • Message board
  • Quick vote
  • News search

  In-Depth Specials
  • Bonn 2001 summit
  • Fallout from Kyoto

U.S. and France lock horns over pollution

"At the very least, mankind is carrying out a risky experiment with the planet by raising the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to levels far above any seen in the last 150,000 years or more.

"We do not know whether this will be catastrophic, or whether it might on balance be slightly beneficial. But we do know that it is, in effect, irreversible.

"It makes sense, therefore, to take prudent precautionary measures now. The emission limits for greenhouse gases set in Kyoto provide the necessary signals to encourage such measures."

But the company maintains that oil and gas remain the best sources of energy. A spokesman said: "We believe that sensible and prudent use of these fuels are essential to meet the energy needs of the world."

The environmental group Greenpeace is demanding an immediate halt to all future oil exploration as the first positive step to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

They argue that there will be major destruction of ecosystems if the world burns just a quarter of the oil that has already been discovered.

It wants nations to begin to phase out fossil fuels as a power source and switch to wind, wave, and solar energy efficiency, setting a target of 30 to 40 years to complete the changeover.

Seven steps to save the planet
1. An immediate halt to all oil exploration.
2. A switch from fossil fuels to wind, wave and solar energy within 40 years.
3. Mass production of solar panels to make solar power more affordable.
4. All new homes to be built with highest possible energy saving standards.
5. Insulation and energy efficiency increased on existing homes.
6. Public transport and cycle routes improved, and people encouraged to walk rather than drive.
7. Campaigns to educate the public on energy efficiency.

The group wants nations to build high production solar panel factories to reduce the cost of solar panels to make solar power more affordable to businesses and to individuals.

It says homes already exist which have solar roof tiles, providing all its energy needs and producing a surplus which home owners actually sell to an electricity supplier.

Mass production of solar panels would cut the cost and increase the demand for this important energy saving feature, Greenpeace says.

Other measures Greenpeace want to see put into action are for governments to insist all new homes are built to the highest possible energy saving standards and to encourage homeowners to increase insulation in existing homes.

It want nations to improve public transport and cycle routes, and encourage people to walk rather than drive.

And it seeks energy efficiency campaigns to encourage individuals to adopt a range of energy saving practices including switching off lights when unnecessary and to not leave appliances on standby.

Leaders gather for crucial climate change summit
November 19, 2000

The Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies
Shell and climate change

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