Increasing global supplies of unconventional natural gas will not help to reduce the overall upward trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions and the planetary warming that comes with it, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.
The findings further undercut the notion, long touted by proponents of natural gas, that the fuel — which emits less CO2 than coal when burned — represents an important “bridge” in the transition to low carbon energy resources.
The study, which synthesized models developed by numerous researchers working independently, suggested that atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations over the next 35 years would remain virtually unchanged — and in some models, warming would be worsened — by increased natural gas production around the globe. This was in part attributed to the fact that the new gas supplies would provide a substitute not only for coal, but also for existing low-emissions technologies like nuclear power and renewables.
“Our results show that although market penetration of globally abundant gas may substantially change the future energy system,” the authors of the study noted, “it is not necessarily an effective substitute for climate change mitigation policy.”