Gas is far more potent in warming the atmosphere than coal, a new study finds, as new data on global warming and climate change shows the fossil fuel is not as potent as previously thought.
The study by scientists at the Universities of Oxford and Princeton in the US has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.
“There is still a lot of debate about the impact of CO2 on global temperatures and the degree to which CO2 is a driver of warming,” said study co-author Professor David Evans, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Oxford.
“The data is starting to suggest that CO2’s impact is not significant.”
The researchers used data from more than a million stations around the world to show that the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels increased about 10 per cent between 1998 and 2015, with a significant rise in emissions in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
They used satellite data to show how much warming was happening in each region.
They found that the increase in emissions from the use of coal and gas was responsible for almost a third of the global increase in carbon dioxide emissions.
The researchers analysed the data from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in the United States to try and figure out how much CO2 was being emitted by coal and other fossil fuels and how much by other sources.
“It turns out that a lot is missing,” said Professor Evans.
“Some of the CO2 emissions are coming from things like power plants that are operating without electricity, so they’re producing power for a lot longer than we thought.”
In the study, the researchers found that emissions from fossil fuels accounted for roughly three-quarters of the increase between 1998 to 2015.
But they also found that while CO2-dioxide emissions from coal and natural gas increased by almost 10 per the US population, other sources of CO 2 emissions decreased by about 20 per cent, mostly due to natural gas and other renewables.
They also found the carbon dioxide effect was much smaller in poorer countries.
For example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was home to more than 1.3 million people in 2015, emissions from CO 2 were actually less than half the rate of the population, and about a third lower than in the rich nations.
The report is also the first to look at the carbon intensity of fossil fuels, as opposed to natural resources.
It finds that carbon intensity is a measure of how much carbon is emitted per unit of energy output.
So if we want to know how much we are adding to the atmosphere by burning coal and oil, we need to look instead at how much is being released by renewables.
The US emissions data show that coal accounted for about 1.4 per cent of the total CO 2 released in the world in 2015.
The world has a massive amount of fossil fuel reserves, but the amount released by burning them is limited.
Coal accounts for about half of all carbon emissions worldwide, but it’s only around 1 per cent in the countries that use it.
Natural gas accounts for almost two-thirds of all CO 2 in the global atmosphere.
Natural Gas has been used as a cheap, abundant and renewable energy source in China, Russia, India and the US.
The impact of natural gas on climate change The US study found that coal and coal-fired power plants accounted for almost 60 per cent and almost 40 per cent respectively of CO two emissions in the developed world in 2013.
“This is an enormous improvement on the emissions from gas and oil in the last two decades, but even that is only half of the picture,” said Evans.
In some countries like China, the impact has been much smaller.
For instance, in 2014 China released nearly 300 billion tonnes of CO-2, while only about half that amount was emitted by natural gas, according to the US report.
“We’re really seeing a real acceleration of the use and uptake of natural fuels in many of the countries we are studying,” said professor Evans.
Professor Evans believes the real driver of the shift in CO2 intensity has been the growing use of renewables, as well as other technologies that can capture and store it.
“Natural gas is much cleaner than coal and there are some really promising technologies that have been developed to capture CO2,” he said.
The most important technology is methane capture and storage, which has been developing for a long time.
“Methane is actually a much cleaner carbon than CO2, and we’ve been developing new technologies for it for a number of years,” said Dr Andrew Smith, an energy economist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“If you can put methane in a storage facility and make it capture CO 2 that’s a pretty good way to reduce emissions.”
But even that technology can only store a small amount of CO, so the real drivers of the change in carbon intensity in 2015 are the rapid deployment of solar panels and wind farms.
“A lot of this change is happening because of rapid technological development,” said Smith