Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Natural gas boom will not slow climate change


The recent natural gas boom due to the use of technologies such as fracking will not lead to a reduction of overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Burning natural gas produces only half the CO2 emissions as coal per unit of energy. However, as natural gas becomes abundant and therefore cheap, it adds to the total energy supply and only partially replaces coal, a study published in the journal Nature shows. This market effect erases the advantage of lower emissions from the natural gas itself, according to an unprecedented international comparison of computer simulations.

“The upshot is that abundant natural gas alone will not rescue us from climate change,” says the lead author Haewon McJeon of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Especially in the US advances such as hydraulic fracturing – pumping liquids into stone to break it up and release the gas, known as fracking – and horizontal drilling have led to bountiful natural gas production.

“Global deployment of advanced natural gas production technology could double or triple the global natural gas production by 2050”, McJeon says.

“The high hopes have been misguided” – market effects dominate

This might eventually lead to up to ten percent higher CO2 emissions by the middle of our century instead of lowering CO2 emissions. “The additional gas supply boosts its deployment, but the substitution of coal is rather limited and it might also substitute low-emission renewables and nuclear, according to our calculations," says co-author Nico Bauer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

“The high hopes that natural gas will help reduce global warming because of technical superiority to coal turn out to be misguided because market effects are dominating. The main factor here is that an abundance of natural gas leads to a price drop and expansion of total primary energy supply.” This could lead to an overall increase of energy consumption and hence of emissions. Moreover, increased gas production comes with higher emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas methane from drilling leakages and pipelines.

The uncertainty surrounding gas supply is tremendous – the assessment of global natural gas resources have been revised over the past decade, but the economic implications up to now were not well understood.

Technological advances cannot replace climate policies

So five research groups from Germany, USA, Austria, Italy and Australia projected what the world might be like in 2050 with and without a natural gas boom. They used five different computer models that included not just energy use and production, but also the broader economy and the climate system.

"When we first saw little change in greenhouse gas emissions in our model, we thought we had made a mistake, because we were fully expecting to see a significant reduction in emissions," said scientist James ‘Jae’ Edmonds of PNNL's Joint Global Change Research Institute. "But when we saw all five modeling teams reporting little difference in climate change, we knew we were onto something."

"The findings show that effective climate stabilization can be achieved only through emissions pricing – this requires international political cooperation and binding agreements,“ comments Ottmar Edenhofer, chief economist of PIK and co-chair of the working group on mitigation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that recently published a milestone assessment report. “Technological advances can reduce the costs of climate policies – but they cannot replace policies.”

Article: McJeon, H., Edmonds, J., Bauer, N., Clarke, L., Fisher, B., Flannery, B.P., Hilaire, J., Krey, V., Marangoni, G., Mi, R., Riahi, K., Rogner, H., Tavoni, M. (2014): Limited impact on decadal-scale climate change from increased use of natural gas. Nature (advance online publication) [DOI:10.1038/nature13837]

Weblink to the article once it is published:

For further information please contact:
PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
Twitter: @PIK_Climate

Weitere Informationen: - Weblink to the article once it is published

Jonas Viering | PIK Potsdam

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

TRAPPIST-1 planets provide clues to the nature of habitable worlds

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

The search for dark matter widens

21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Natural enemies reduce pesticide use

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>