Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Natural gas boom will not slow climate change

16.10.2014

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: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13837

For further information please contact:
PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
E-Mail: press@pik-potsdam.de
Twitter: @PIK_Climate

Weitere Informationen:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13837 - Weblink to the article once it is published

Jonas Viering | PIK Potsdam

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht Making Oceans Plastic Free - Project tackles the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans
31.05.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation

23.06.2017 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation

22.06.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>