Oil Exec Leading Climate Summit Causes Furor Over Fossil Fuel Remarks

Dec 5, 2023

Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber has ignited a firestorm over his comments about the science of climate change at COP28. He said that there’s “no science” behind the claim that phasing out fossil fuels can help reduce global warming. Al-Jaber is a UAE oil company chief. He’s also head of the United Nations COP28 summit in Dubai. COP28 is a global meeting about climate change.

“There is no science out there," al-Jaber told The Guardian, "that says the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5."  

Scientists widely disagree with al-Jaber. Many say holding the Earth to a 1.5 degree Celsius (°C) increase from 250 years ago is the best goal for the Earth’s future. To achieve it, they say, oil and gas use must be slashed.    

A number of studies back up the claim. A United Nations report on climate change found that fossil fuel use is still growing. In fact, the report projects that by 2030, fossil fuel use will be two times higher than the threshold needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C. That's if nothing changes.     

Climate experts have widely spoken out against al-Jaber’s remarks. On X (formerly Twitter), University of Pennsylvania climate expert Michael Mann accused al-Jaber of “making a complete mockery of the COP28 summit.”   

Al-Jaber stood by his remarks. He also said he believes the phasing out of fossil fuels is coming. But, he added, it “needs to be orderly, fair, just and responsible.” 

Al-Jaber faced criticism before COP28 even began. Reports revealed that the UAE planned to use COP28 to make deals on oil and gas leases. On Monday, former Vice President Al Gore accused the UAE of “abusing the public’s trust.”     

Photo from Reuters.

Reflect: Why do you think different people might have varying opinions or beliefs about protecting the environment and addressing climate change?

Based on the details in the story, who would most likely agree with the statement that the scientific basis for phasing out fossil fuels to achieve climate targets is questionable? (Common Core RI.5.9; RI.6.9)
a. climate change activists
b. climate scientists
c. Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber
d. Al Gore
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