At a time when the UK Government is taking measures to shore up the oil industry and protect it from falling prices, less has been said about a recent report that concludes that, if dangerous global warming is to be avoided, we need to leave unextracted most of the world's present and still to be discovered fossil fuel reserves.

Apparently, more than 80 per cent of coal, 50 per cent of gas and 30 per cent of oil reserves are "unburnable" if we are to achieve the goal of limiting global warming to no more than 2C. This nicely sums up what the writer Naomi Klein describes in her recent magnum opus, This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus The Climate, as the Catch 22 situation in the war between our economic system and our planet.

The renowned economic and social theorist, Jeffrey Rifkin, in The Zero Marginal Cost Society, sets out his stall: "The entropic bill for the Industrial Age has arrived. The accumulation in carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere from burning massive amounts of carbon energy has given rise to climate change and the wholesale destruction of the Earth's biosphere, throwing the existing economic model into question.

"The field of economics, by and large, has yet to confront the fact economic activity is conditioned by the laws of thermodynamics. The profession's glaring misunderstanding .... is what's forcing a rethinking of the paradigm..."

Rifkin points to an extraordinary ("unprecedented - and unimaginable") concentration of power and wealth in just a few corporate hands, built significantly on extracting and refining fossil fuels.

Klein describes the oil and gas industry as the richest and most powerful the world has ever known, the Stern Review observing that the failure to charge the industry for its disposal of waste "represents the greatest market failure the world has ever seen".

Klein argues provocatively these major corporate interests, the elite minority, are well aware of the threats posed by climate change, threats not just to our future as humans but to the deregulated capitalist model and the minority's own ability to continue to generate profits based on the burning of fossil fuels.

So they fund climate scepticism in order to sow doubt about the kind of radical economic and social changes required to mitigate and adapt to the already existing, and certainly coming, threats. And the present economic paradigm is winning. Klein describes it as "systematic sabotage". Climate negotiations have stuttered while free trade and the corporate globalisation process have thrived and prevailed, she argues.

Researching Don't Even Think About It, environmentalist George Marshall discovered there had not been a single proposal, debate or even position paper on limiting fossil fuel production during international climate negotiations. Essentially, governments had chosen to ignore the role of fossil fuel companies in causing climate change.

Robinson likens our "collective social norm of silence" about climate change and its causes to our response to that other great taboo, death. He suggests the two have more in common than we care to admit.

The answer seems to lie in restricting production rather than simply addressing consumption. It is argued that, if the world's governments regulated the wellhead rather than just the tailpipe, logistically the task would be a thousand times easier. Instead of trying to change the behaviour of seven billion people, they would need to control just a few thousand corporations. Could this be a focus of the crucial climate talks in Paris in December and a focus of the general election campaign?

What about us in Scotland? The co-author of another report on unburned carbon, Christophe McGlade, comments that policymakers must realise their instincts to maximise the production of fossil fuels within their own countries are wholly incompatible with their commitments to minimise greenhouse gas emissions and reach the 2C goal. If they go ahead with developing their own resources, they must identify which reserves elsewhere should remain unburned in order that the carbon budget is not exceeded.

In Scotland, this contradiction between pursuing oil and gas extraction, with its short-term economic benefits, and having a world-leading carbon emission reduction target is not often spoken about. It needs to be. Scotland could then offer further leadership in the run up to Paris.

John Sturrock is a mediator and member of the 2020 Climate Group. The views expressed here are personal.