Thursday, October 16, 2014

Article: Global natural gas boom alone won't slow climate change

But it also will not make it any worse.

Every silver lining needs a cloud.
Because natural gas emits half the carbon dioxide of coal, many people hoped the recent natural gas boom could help slow climate change -- and according to government analyses, natural gas did contribute partially to a decline in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions between 2007 and 2012. 
This is the silver lining.

If Obama's EPA gets its way, it will gradually regulate coal-fueled power plants out of existence. In theory, the trend will continue, for the US, until we no longer use coal to generate electricity.

Now for the cloud.
But, in the long run, according to this study, a global abundance of inexpensive natural gas would compete with all energy sources -- not just higher-emitting coal, but also lower-emitting nuclear and renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar. 
This is a "free-market" working normally. People want the cheapest energy, power companies in the US and governments of poor countries will do their best to supply it.
Inexpensive natural gas would also accelerate economic growth and expand overall energy use.
This is considered to be a negative effect of the switch to fracking and natural gas.

[Sarcasm alert: Economic growth, pulling people out of poverty, developing the full human potential in all countries of the world is a bad thing. It must be stopped by right-thinking people. Fracking must be opposed!]

Five groups of scientists ran their own computer models (called "integrated assessment models") in an attempt to see whether or not swapping coal for methane made any difference to overall global warming.

They found that it did not.

What I wonder about the research is something that they did not report on. Was the effect of the switch so small that it is actually negligible? Even before figuring in all the effects?

Or, putting it another way, before they threw in a bunch of other factors, what was the actual effect on global warming of making the switch?

It sounds as if there must be some effect, but it is not mentioned.

One of the big complaints about the Australian carbon pricing scheme was that the effect of it would be well below a 0.01% reduction in global warming over a 50 year period.
[The research shows that] the global energy system could experience unprecedented changes in the growth of natural gas production and significant changes to the types of energy used, but without much reduction to projected climate change… 
"Abundant gas may have a lot of benefits -- economic growth, local air pollution, energy security, and so on. There's been some hope that slowing climate change could also be one of its benefits, but that turns out not to be the case," said McJeon.
So the overall effect would be beneficial.

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