A new study has found that relying on natural gas more than coal would not slow down the effects of climate change as much as originally anticipated, despite reduced carbon dioxide emissions.
While coal emits a considerably larger amount of carbon dioxide than natural gas, it also releases large amounts of sulfates and other particles that help cool the Earth by blocking sunlight, according to a study about to be published in the journal Climate Change Letters in October.
Natural gas for fuel also poses risks of methane leaks. Methane is a heat-trapping greenhouse gas and is 20 times stronger and more potent than carbon dioxide.
According to author Tom Wigley, “it would be many decades before it would slow down global warming at all, and even then it would just be making a difference around the edges.”
A partial global shift from coal to gas could slowly speed up global warming through 2050 at the earliest, even if there were no methane leaks from natural gas. If a substantial amount of methane leakage occurred, global warming could continue through as late as 2140.
According to The Center for American Progress, natural gas could act as more of a “bridge fuel”, accelerating and easing the transition into greener energy sources. Making the switch could cut oil use by 1.2 million barrels per day by 2035.
The study shows that gas will not seriously impact climate change, and the way that most people view natural gas is misguided. It seems that we will need to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels as soon as possible if we expect to reduce the risks associated with climate change.
Image CC licensed by Tom Baker: Natural Gas