By Joshua S Hill

A new study has concluded that fossil fuels consumption is likely to grow unless an adequate price is placed on carbon dioxide emissions.

The new study, Will We Ever Stop Using Fossil Fuels, published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, finds that fossil fuel consumption is likely to continue to increase unless clear and decisive policies are enacted to price carbon dioxide emissions and increase clean energy technology.

“The Paris agreement laid out a dramatic new vision, but there is still much work to be done to turn that broad outline into the concrete climate policy changes around the globe that are needed to reduce fossil fuel consumption and the odds of disruptive climate change,” said Professor Michael Greenstone, co-author of the study and the director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. “But one thing is clear: Counting on the fickle finger of fate to point the way to cheaper low-carbon energy sources, without market and policy forces pushing us there, mistakes hope for a strategy.”

The authors, in a worst-case scenario exploration, found that burning the fossil fuels currently known to us would increase global temperatures by 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit — which only increases between 1.6 to 6.2 degrees Fahrenheit if fossil fuel extraction techniques open up further resources such as oil shale and methane hydrates.

Greenstone and co-authors Thomas Covert of the University of Chicago and Christopher Knittel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also concluded that market forces alone will not be enough to cause a reduction in fossil fuel supply or demand.

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Areas of Focus: Energy Markets
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Energy Markets
Well-functioning markets are essential for providing access to reliable, affordable energy. EPIC research is uncovering the policies, prices and information needed to help energy markets work efficiently.
Fossil Fuels
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Fossil Fuels
Under current policies, fossil fuels will play an important role in the energy system for the foreseeable future. EPIC research is exploring the costs and benefits of these fuels as...
Climate Change
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Climate Change
Climate change is an urgent global challenge. EPIC research is helping to assess its impacts, quantify its costs, and identify an efficient set of policies to reduce emissions and adapt...
Climate Law & Policy
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Climate Law & Policy
As countries around the world implement policies to confront climate change, EPIC research is calculating which policies will have the most impact for the least cost.