Advocates for natural gas drilling have trumpeted its environmental benefits as an alternative to the coal that produces most of America's electricity, noting that natural gas emits about half the amount of carbon dioxide when burned as coal does.(via Global Warming Policy Foundation)
But a new study sheds doubt on that claim, finding that a shift from coal to natural gas would in fact accelerate the planet's rising temperatures before slightly reducing them. Tom Wigley of the National Center on Atmospheric Research found that swapping the two fuels would increase global temperatures over the next four decades by about a tenth of a degree.
"From the CO2 perspective, gas is cleaner, but from the climate perspective, it gets complicated," said Wigley.
Wigley's study does not dispute the fact that natural gas produces far less carbon dioxide, a key culprit in pushing temperatures steadily upwards. But coal also gives off sulfates and other particles that dissipate more quickly than coal fumes and effectively reflect sunlight away from the earth, cooling rather than warming. Those particles do increase air pollution and the likelihood of acid rain, but from a global warming perspective they are a source of relief.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Global Warming Paradox of the Week
From International Business Times: