Scientists may have found a way to stabilise climate change

Scientists may have found a way to stabilise climate change

A transition from coal-based energy to cleaner burning gas would benefit the climate, a study has claimed.

Focusing on the world’s leading power generators – China, Germany, India, and the United States – the study examined the impacts from a variety of direct and indirect emissions of such a shift on both shorter and longer timescales ranging from a few decades to a century.

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“Our study makes a strong case for the climate benefits that would result from this energy transition because we carefully chose metrics to evaluate the climate impacts in light of recent advances in understanding metrics,” said Katsumasa Tanaka, a senior climate risk researcher at the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan.

“Given the current political situation, we deliver a much-needed message to help facilitate the energy shift away from coal under the Paris Agreement. However, natural gas is not an end goal; we regard it as a bridge fuel toward more sustainable forms of energy in the long run as we move toward decarbonisation,” Tanaka added.

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“Our conclusion that the benefits of natural gas outweigh the possible risks is robust under a broad range of methane leakage, and under uncertainties in emissions data and metrics,” Tanaka said.

Emissions metrics, or indicators to evaluate the impacts on climate change from a variety of emission types, are useful tools to gain insights into climate impacts without the need for climate model runs.

These metrics work like weighting factors when calculating CO2-equivalent emissions from the emissions of a variety of greenhouse gases. However, the resulting climate impacts observed through CO2-equivalent emissions are sensitive to the specific metrics chosen.

The study combined multiple metrics to address both short- and long-term climate impacts in parallel. It was found that natural gas power plants have both smaller short- and long-term impacts than coal power plants, even when high potential methane leakage rates, a full array of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, or uncertainty issues are considered.

To ensure that possible regional differences were accounted for in the global study, the study compared global metrics with regional metrics to more precisely examine impacts.

Future related work could consider supply chains and trade within and across nations and other environmental factors, in addition to work on improving the consistency of metrics for evaluating climate impacts.

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