Replacing coal and oil with natural gas will not help fight global warming

July 21, 2014, Wiley

Both shale gas and conventional natural gas have a larger greenhouse gas footprint than do coal or oil, especially for the primary uses of residential and commercial heating.

Dr. Robert Howarth, a professor of ecology and environmental biology, came to this conclusion after assessing the best available data and analyzing greenhouse gas footprints for both methane (including and ) and over a timescale of 20-years following emissions. The findings are published in Energy Science & Engineering.

"While emissions of carbon dioxide are less from natural gas than from coal and oil, methane emissions are far greater. Methane is such a potent greenhouse gas that these emissions make natural gas a dangerous fuel from the standpoint of global warming over the next several decades," said Dr. Howarth. "Society should wean ourselves from all fossil fuels and not rely on the myth that natural gas is an acceptable bridge fuel to a sustainable future."

Explore further: Control methane now, greenhouse gas expert warns

More information: Energy Science and Engineering 2014; 2(2): 47-60:

Related Stories

Control methane now, greenhouse gas expert warns

May 14, 2014

( —As the shale gas boom continues, the atmosphere receives more methane, adding to Earth's greenhouse gas problem. A Cornell ecology professor fears that we may not be many years away from an environmental tipping ...

Figuring out methane's role in the climate puzzle

July 9, 2014

The U.S. may be on the verge of an economy driven by methane, the primary component of natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal and is undergoing a production boom. It has poised the country as a top fuel producer globally, ...

Fracking leaks may make gas 'dirtier' than coal

April 12, 2011

( -- Extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale could do more to aggravate global warming than mining coal, according to a Cornell study published in the May issue of Climatic Change Letters (105:5).

Study defines gas potential into the future

April 11, 2014

The world has enough natural gas to last nearly 400 years at the current rate of consumption or 110 years if production increases at a rate of two per cent a year, according to a Curtin University study.

Climate: Meat turns up the heat

July 21, 2014

Eating meat contributes to climate change, due to greenhouse gasses emitted by livestock. New research finds that livestock emissions are on the rise and that beef cattle are responsible for far more greenhouse gas emissions ...

Recommended for you

Corals light the way to a healthy partnership

January 22, 2019

Corals know how to attract good company. New research finds that corals emit an enticing fluorescent green light that attracts the mobile microalgae, known as Symbiodinium, that are critical to the establishment of a healthy ...

For zombie microbes, deep-sea buffet is just out of reach

January 22, 2019

Far below the ocean floor, sediments are teeming with bizarre zombie-like microbes. Although they're technically alive, they grow in slow motion, and can take decades for a single cell to divide—something their cousins ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

4 / 5 (6) Jul 21, 2014
This is common sense, but when did humans ever listen to common sense?
5 / 5 (2) Jul 22, 2014
1lb of Methane = 21lbs of CO2 for greenhouse gas heat trapping potential. Methane has an atmospheric lifetime of 9.5 years before decomposing in the upper troposphere. CO2 is different in that it doesn't decompose and will linger in the atmosphere for 500-1000yrs or more influencing global warming for a very extended period of time.
The feed back mechanisms where global warming causes massive releases of methane from the permafrost, peat bogs and other sources, could lead mankind and the globe into a very critical temperature spike that would certainly be an mass extinction event.
5 / 5 (2) Sep 04, 2014
This isn't news, it is just a calculation for a very short time span, which doesn't really make any sense since global warming is a long term problem with a scope much longer than 20 year.

That said, while it is less than coal and oil, natural gas combustion still produce a considerable amount of CO₂, we'd best phase out use of all three of them.
Sep 04, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
5 / 5 (2) Sep 05, 2014
we'd best phase out use of all three of them
In this moment you'll realize, that the shift to renewable energy supply one non-renewable resource (fossil fuel) with another (metals and minerals). Right now wind and solar energy meet only about 1 percent of global demand; hydroelectricity meets about 7 percent. For example, to match the power generated by fossil fuels or nuclear power stations, the construction of solar energy farms and wind turbines will gobble up 15 times more concrete, 90 times more aluminum and 50 times more iron, copper and glass than the current production. Also, the wind turbines only work when there's wind, although not too much, and the solar panels only work during the day and then only when it's not cloudy, winter, etc.... Other than that, alternative energy is perfect.

Metals and minerals are not renewable? Yet they can be recycled?

Please show how we are running out of metal ore, limestone and gravel.
1 / 5 (3) Sep 05, 2014
Wow rockturd, were you dropped as a baby or just born special?
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 07, 2014
Aligo seems to ignore the materials needed for the construction of fossil and nuclear powerplants. He only counts the small amounts of materials used in renewable systems.

Apparently he is unaware of the existence of accountants in utility companies, and the professionals who plan for the energy of the future, who take all of that into account.

What is HIS field, to question the professionalism of others?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.