Increased Use of Natural Gas through 2050 and Potential Impacts on Climate Change Modeled in Study Published in the Journal “Nature” in October 2014

In October 2014, the scientific journal Nature published “Limited impact on decadal-scale climate change from increased use of natural gas” (Vol. 514, Oct. 23, 2014, pages 482–485).  Led by Haewon McJeon of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (http://www.pnnl.gov/), the study compared five computer-model simulations of the possible climate-change impacts of increased natural gas use through 2050.  The study’s simulations project an increase in natural gas of about 170 percent by 2050, but the impacts of greenhouse-gas emissions were projected to range from a decrease of about 2 percent an increase of about 11 percent, assuming no change in current policies related to emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The authors state (p. 483) that “[t]he core finding of this research is that increases in unconventional gas supply in the energy market could substantially change the global energy system over the decades ahead without producing commensurate changes in emissions….”  They conclude (p. 485) that their “analysis focused solely on the potential of abundant gas to affect greenhouse gas emissions in the absence of greenhouse gas mitigation policies beyond those already in effect.  The interaction between abundant natural gas and greenhouse gas mitigations policies is another issue in need of further examination.  Finally, we note that the global deployment of improved natural gas extraction technology carries implications not only for climate change, but also for many other important concerns including air and water quality, energy security, access to modern energy, and economic growth.”

The article is available online at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v514/n7523/full/nature13837.html, but a subscription is required for access. Nature is available in print or online at many public and college/university libraries.  The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s October 15, 2014, news release about the study is available online at http://www.pnnl.gov/news/release.aspx?id=3166.

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