Natural Gas not Better for Climate than Coal, says NCAR study

It’s time for politicians to move on to the next silver bullet for climate change: natural gas won’t cut it anymore. Drilling for shale gas has already been shown to be a high risk process that can grievously pollute aquifers with toxic chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde. Now its climate ‘credentials’ are increasingly being called into question as well.

Switching over to natural gas from coal as an energy source will not slow anthropogenic climate change, according to a new study out of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Although natural gas emits less carbon dioxide when burned, it emits far more methane (which leaks out during the production process) and far fewer sulfates (which, though polluting to the air, block sunlight and therefore have a cooling effect).  And as I’ve written about here, the extraction of natural gas can release a lot of methane.

So perhaps politicians will learn to stop promoting simplistic solutions (e.g. natural gas!) to wicked problems (e.g. climate change). But I’m not holding my breath.

You may find the latest NCAR press release here.

“Relying more on natural gas would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, but it would do little to help solve the climate problem…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.”

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