Shale gas can help combat global warming if it replaces coal in power stations, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report found that it was still just possible to limit the rise in average global temperatures to 3.6F (2C) by 2100, the level beyond which experts say the effects will be “dangerous”.
The IPCC report says that the use of low-carbon sources of energy such as solar and wind power stations as well as nuclear power station must treble by the year 2050.
“Greenhouse gas emissions from energy supply can be reduced significantly by replacing current world average coal-fired power plants with modern, highly efficient natural gas combined-cycle power plants or combined heat and power plants,” said the report.
It also admitted that shale gas could be “very consistent with low carbon development and decarbonisation”.
In the long term, burning gas for power will only help to tackle climate change if power plants are fitted with “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) technology to trap and bury the harmful emissions. “What a 2C scenario means is the phase out of fossil fuel without CCS entirely, [at the] latest in the next few decades,” the report said.
Proponents of ‘fracking’ will receive the report as good news, however many environmentalists worry about the impact shale gas exploration will have on the environment. There is also a concern that the reliance on unconventional gas will detract attention – and funding – from ‘clean energy’ sources (mostly wind and solar).
Natural gas is considered to be a better option than other fossil fuels because methane burns releasing 50% less carbon dioxide than coal. This is why it is often considered to be a ‘transition fuel’ on the way towards cleaner sources of energy.
Today’s report confirmed this transitionary role of unconventional gas.
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