Although natural gas burns more cleanly than coal, a new study argues that replacing all the world's coal power plants with natural gas would do little to slow global warming this century.
"There are lots of reasons to like natural gas, but climate change isn't one of them," said physicist Nathan Myhrvold, lead author of the new study. "It's worthless for [fighting] climate change, as far as we can tell."
The reason for that grim assessment: The carbon dioxide burden already is so large, and its lifetime in the atmosphere is so long, that even a switch to completely carbon-free electricity couldn't stop temperatures from rising over the next 100 years. Switching from coal to natural gas would cut the warming effect in 100 years' time by only about 20 percent, while switching to renewable or nuclear energy would slash the warming effect about two-thirds to three-quarters.