The first step toward recovery from drug addiction is to admit we are addicts. The second step is to stop using the drug. The same steps apply to the world’s addiction to fossil fuels. The overwhelming majority of the world’s “climate doctors” have diagnosed our addiction, but they are less certain about the prognosis.

But end-state fossil fuel addiction is a global catastrophe and even human extinction, according to a new report by a research team from the UK’s Universities of Cambridge and Exeter.

The final prognosis depends on how rapidly and completely we end the addiction. But “there are ample reasons to suspect that climate change could result in a global catastrophe,” the team concludes. “It’s time for the scientific community to grapple with the challenge of better understanding catastrophic climate change.”

That time has come because the still-powerful fossil energy sector does not acknowledge that it’s a drug dealer feeding the world’s addiction and despite promises to the contrary, nations don’t seem anxious to kick the habit. Oil, coal, and gas producers aren’t eager, either.

Research published in 2021 warned that to have a 50-50 chance to comply with the Paris goals, 60 percent of oil and methane plus 90 percent of coal would have to remain in the ground. Instead, eight of the biggest oil companies plan 200 expansion projects over the next three years, according to Oil Change International, and their carbon-cutting plans are grossly insufficient compared to the aspirations of the Paris climate accord.

But the world's largest banks have financed nearly $4.6 trillion in fossil energy projects since the adoption of the Paris agreement. The IEA expected the industry to make $200 billion in capital investments this year and to double its net earnings to a record $4 trillion.

As climate-action activists in the United States celebrated their Congress’s long-awaited approval of a major clean energy investment ($370 billion), oil and gas companies were busy building more than 4,000 miles of new pipelines and preparing to build 17,800 miles more.

The world’s transition to clean energy has been called the biggest new market opportunity in history, but big oil companies have made only token investments in renewable fuels. A study cited by S&P Global found BP invested a little over 2 percent of its capital expenditures on renewable fuels between 2010 and 2018. Shell invested only 1.3 percent.

America’s oil and gas producers hold leases to drill on 40 million acres of public onshore and offshore lands, but they want more. Congress couldn’t get the votes to pass the big clean-energy investment until the bill’s sponsors agreed to allow oil and gas production on another 62 million acres of federal property.

Analysts expected a record year for investment in clean energy, but Fatih Briol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) says it’s not enough. “A massive surge in investment to accelerate clean energy transitions is the only lasting solution,” he says, “and that calls for “a much faster increase.” Meantime, two recent analyses cited by S&P Global concluded that current investments in clean energy are too low to achieve a net-zero-carbon energy economy by mid-century.

Rather than betting on carbon-free energy, the fossil fuel sector is lobbying for policies and technologies that will allow it to keep in business even in a decarbonized world. Occidental Petroleum, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Shell have adopted variations of the popular net-zero carbon by 2050 goal, according to the New York Times. As it’s presently conceived, however, the net-zero pledge invites greenwashing. It allows oil, coal, and gas companies to keep producing their traditional products by paying others to deal with carbon.

Climate capture and sequestration (CCS) is a technology still in the demonstration stage. It would allow power plants to burn fossil fuels by separating carbon dioxide from the plant’s flue gases, compressing it, and sending it to a burial site. CCS is widely considered indispensable to achieving the Paris accord’s goals. But objective analysis shows CCS makes no sense.

It requires bigger power plants, parasitic energy losses, demands for cooling water in a thirsty world, new pipelines, environmental damages associated with extraction, methane leaks, property rights controversies at sequestration sites, and the need for CCS operations to stay above water by selling their captured gas for enhanced oil recovery. All of which undermines the presumed climate benefits of CCS. It will raise the consumer cost of electricity and will be unable to compete economically with power from solar and wind systems, and other renewable resources.

The IEA’s Briol said earlier this year, “If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal” from that point forward. Instead, the world should triple its energy efficiency and quadruple its investment in solar and wind power by 2030, he said.

The IEA says the path to a net-zero carbon economy "calls for nothing less than a complete transformation of how we produce, transport, and consume energy." There are no new oil and gas fields or coal mines on the path. Yet despite the enormous body of evidence about how bad for us they are, the world apparently is not ready to give up fossil fuels.

There’s a point at which doctors tell us that addiction will kill us. The UK team says it’s time to think about that outcome in regard to fossil fuels because climate change has reached the stage where the extinction of humanity is plausible.

An onslaught of tragic scenarios like this can cause “apocalypse fatigue,” in which we become numb to such predictions. It’s helpful to pause and imagine what a nice world it would be if we stopped using fossil fuels right now. Is anyone up for an intervention?