World leaders urgently need to curtail the billions of dollars that are currently earmarked for oil exploration and extraction. Bringing new oil supplies to market could have an unexpectedly large impact on global emissions (see P. Erickson and M. Lazarus Nature Clim. Change 4, 778–781; 2014). Aside from increasing carbon dioxide emissions in the short term, new sources of oil make it harder and more expensive to scale down production in the long term. This ‘carbon lock-in’ entrenches our dependence on fossil fuels and commits economies to higher emissions (see http://go.nature.com/ djtala).
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