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January 7, 2015 10:17 PM EST

Nations will need to leave much of their available coal, oil, and gas reserves unused in the ground if the world is to meet its goals for curbing climate change, new research from University College London shows.

A paper published in Nature this week finds that huge amounts of the fossil fuels in the Middle East, U.S., China, Russia and elsewhere — including 80% of coal reserves, as well as half of gas and one third of oil reserves — cannot be burned if the world is to keep global temperatures under an agreed-upon 2ºC rise safety limit, The Guardian reports. Earth is right now dangerously on track for 5ºC of warming.

The research could force countries seeking to capitalize on their expensive natural resources into an evaluation of priorities. The fossil fuels that would need to be left unburned include some 40% of the Middle East’s oil and about 60% of its gas, as well as all of Canada’s tar sands and all of the Arctic’s oil and gas.

[The Guardian]

Write to Elizabeth Barber at elizabeth.barber@timeasia.com.

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