Climate change: Oil and gas production should be phased out to avoid an 'urgent shutdown' – Scotsman comment

The idea that oil and gas production can be switched off overnight is utterly idiotic. It cannot and will not happen.

Oil and gas production needs to be phased out gradually, not switched off overnight (Picture: Scott Heppel/AFP via Getty Images)

However, the idea that oil and gas production can continue for years to come flies in the face of the need to reduce greenhouse gases and stop climate change from becoming particularly dangerous.

This is a task that every country in the world will eventually be required to undertake and those that do so in a planned, orderly way will feel the least economic pain and be best placed to take advantage of the opportunities presented by this new Industrial Revolution.

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So we should seek to gradually phase out oil and gas, while building up a renewable industry in its place and working hard to make the huge changes to our way of life – such as replacing gas boilers and creating a network of charging points for electric cars – that will be necessary. The development of carbon-capture-and-storage technology must also continue. It may or may not save fossil fuels but is likely to be needed to deal with emissions that are hard to eradicate entirely.

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However, a new survey showing that nearly a quarter of Scots agree – either “somewhat” or “strongly” – that there should be an “urgent shutdown" of UK oil and gas production should be a wake-up call to politicians, business and society in general about the growing level of public concern that we are not acting quickly enough.

The fact that the poll was commissioned by industry body Oil & Gas UK only adds to that impression, although it will note roughly half “somewhat” or “strongly” disagreed.

Of course, different people will define an “urgent” timescale in different ways and there is a need to calculate exactly how long the oil industry has left – based on the UK’s carbon ‘budget’ – to enable proper planning.

Assuming it is agreed that climate change is real and dangerous, there is no escaping the fact that action must be taken. We have two choices: to descend a gradual slope of emission reductions or carry on in a dwam of denial until we are forced to throw our outdated economy off a cliff.

The first is reasonable, achievable and pragmatic, the second is as foolish as turning off the taps today.

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