Project Background

In 2009, scientists and world leaders agreed that the increase in global temperature should be held below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels in order to prevent dangerous climate change. And in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, country governments agreed to hold global temperatures below the 2°C target and pursue the more ambitious goal of 1.5°C. In 2012, a study by the International Energy Agency concluded that no more than 1/3 of known fossil fuel reserves could be used before 2050 if the world is to limit global temperature increase to 2°C. Therefore, at least 2/3 of known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground.

In a recent study in Nature, McGlade and Elkins (2015) use economic modeling to develop an argument about where and which types of fossil fuels should remain in the ground in order to meet the target of 2 °C. Considering different emissions scenarios and the projected costs of energy resources, they conclude that globally, a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80 percent of current coal reserves should remain unused from 2010 to 2050. Their model is based on the economically-optimal solution, which maximizes ‘social welfare’ (or the sum of consumer and producer surplus).

CAMP builds on these economically-focused findings to tell more human-focused stories about where fossil fuels should remain in the ground and why.

The project emerged in 2015 as a collaborative effort between academics, environmental NGOs, and indigenous organizations working for a socially just response to climate change. These climate justice organizations represent and work with front-line communities – those living alongside fossil fuel development who are directly challenging extraction. Building from this movement, CAMP argues that ecologically and culturally sensitive places are priority areas for keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

CAMP was developed to map these priority areas and provide a platform for front-line communities across the Americas to share their stories as advocates of keeping fossil fuels in the ground. The map and website were built by a team of graduate students and faculty researchers at the University of Arizona. The initial map covered the Amazon Basin and showed three layers of data: existing and proposed fossil fuel reserves, indigenous territories, and conservation areas. A fourth layer of the map displays place-based digital stories that users can upload. We are working with non-profit partners and front-line communities to add stories to the map.

Phase 2 of the project created a new version of the CAMP story map focused on energy infrastructure in the United States. The USA map shows four types of data: U.S. Federal Public Lands and BIA Indian Lands; existing power plants; and oil and gas pipelines and spills. As with the Amazon map, users can add stories related to climate justice, energy production, and transitions to renewable energy.

In addition to the story maps, CAMP provides a synthesis of resources related to keeping fossil fuels in the ground and a just transition to renewable energy. The website aims to offer a participatory space for self-representation and global networking as strategies for climate justice. While the map begins in the Amazon Basin and USA, CAMP is an ongoing project that plans to develop climate justice story maps for the entire Americas.