Reducing carbon emissions: Can the world live without fossil fuels?

by | 22 October 2023 | Environment, Sherwood

In recent years, huge progress has been made towards alternative energy sources. However, fossil fuels still make up 81% of global energy supply. There are those who want to expand and continue the use of fossil fuels even further, including the UK government, who has recently issued new oil exploration licences, justifying it as energy security. This is opposed by those who want to act on scientific advice and cut emissions, groups such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion.

Sadly, we have a rich and potted history of peaceful climate protest being ignored. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has held conferences every year since 1988, calling for climate action based on the best science, and has been ignored. Climate scientists have mountains of evidence of climate change; they too have been ignored. David Attenborough put the issue onto our screens – nothing happened. Many big climate demonstrations have taken place and not even made local news, let alone national TV.

Yet polls show over 80% of the public are concerned about climate issues – we, too, are being ignored.

Groups like Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion, frustrated by no action, have resorted to more disruptive tactics to get media and political attention but reporters ignore the issue and focus only on their tactics and disruption. Most people who join JSO and XR are people like you and me, who have been spurred into action by how much worse things will be for our children and grandchildren. While we may not agree with their action and the disruption they cause, these organisations are simply asking the government to do what they agreed to do when they signed the Paris Agreement. By approving new oil exploration they will make it impossible for the UK to meet legally binding emissions targets!

Science backs this up – the planet is on course for over 3°c of warming even if we hit Paris targets, so emissions from new oil licences would push us into uncharted territory of an unpredictable new climate future.

So why won’t politicians debate the pros and cons of burning more oil on an already burning planet? Is it because they have no justification except profit in a growth-based economy? Instead of creating a new vision for civilisation to adapt to a new climate and protect our only home planet, they cling to income from the very industry that is destroying our future while making stronger laws and punishments for protestors. During the biggest crisis we have ever faced, it appears that governments are taking all the wrong actions.

With cutting edge, well-funded research departments, oil companies have known the damage accumulating CO2 emissions are causing the climate. They had the choice to invest in energy alternatives back in the 70s and 80s and save the planet in the process. As leaders in their field, they would still have been incredibly rich. But oil companies made the choice to ignore their own science.

With renewables now being far cheaper than fossil fuels and the cost of climate related disasters rising steeply, studies show the best path forward is investment in alternative energy, adaptation and a phased move away from fossil fuels.

Yet so far, there is no sign of a debate, let alone feasible action. Fossil fuels are costing us too much now; don’t let them cost us the Earth.

For more information about Sherwood Forest Friends of the Earth, find Sherwood Forest FoE on Facebook or email

Pauline Meechan, Sherwood Forest Friends of the Earth