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Updated: June 8, 2011 02:53 IST

Natural gas is no climate change ‘panacea,' warns IEA

Fiona Harvey
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A natural gas platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
A natural gas platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

Reliance on gas would lead the world to a 3.5°C temperature rise, and out-of-control global warming, says new research.

Natural gas is not the “panacea” to solve climate change that fossil fuel industry lobbyists have been claiming, according to new research from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Reliance on gas would lead the world to a 3.5°C temperature rise, according to the IEA. At such a level, global warming could run out of control, deserts would take over in southern Africa, Australia and the western U.S., and sea level rises could engulf small island states.

Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the IEA, told a press conference in London: “While natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, it is still a fossil fuel. Its increased use could muscle out low-carbon fuels such as renewables and nuclear, particularly in the wake of Fukushima. An expansion of gas use alone is no panacea for climate change.”

The IEA also warned that gas could push out renewables, if governments come under pressure to reduce renewables subsidies and opt for gas instead, as gas companies have been urging.

Industry lobbying

The Guardian recently revealed the extent of lobbying by the gas industry, which senses a unique opportunity to rebrand itself as green. Previously inaccessible sources of gas are predicted to create a “golden age of gas” with lower prices and plentiful supply.

When burned for power, gas produces half the carbon of coal.

“Gas is a fortunate fuel because all its competitors have some problems,” said Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA and one of the world's foremost authorities on energy and climate.

Coal suffers high emissions, renewables can be expensive, and there are safety fears over nuclear after the Fukushima disaster in Japan. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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