Whatever you may imagine, “peak oil” has not been discredited as a concept, a statement no less true for “peak fossil fuels.” Think of them instead as postponed. We are, after all, on a finite planet that, by definition, holds a finite amount of oil, natural gas, and coal. Sooner or later, as such deposits get used up (no matter the new techniques that might be invented to extract more of the ever tougher stuff from the earth), we will reach a “peak” of production from which it will be all downhill.
That’s a simple fact to which, as it happens, there’s a catch. Here, according to the New York Times, is the key finding from the latest leaked 127-page draft report of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which manages to use the word “risk” 351 times, “vulnerable” or “vulnerability” 61 times, and “irreversible” 48 times: “The report found that companies and governments had identified reserves of these [fossil] fuels at least four times larger than could safely be burned if global warming is to be kept to a tolerable level.”