What is so Bad About a 25 percent Reduction in Emissions?

Natural gas bus in Atlanta

Why is a 17%-25% reduction in emissions bad? Because it’s not enough, according to a new some researchers. A new study claims that “a much sharper cut, 10 to 20-fold” is necessary to significantly reduce warming.  The study looks at a variety of alternatives to coal-fired power plants, and finds that the natural gas alternative is not good enough.  “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.”

And how best to achieve that 10 to 20-fold reduction? Nuclear, wind and solar energy. Don’t hold your breath for environmental groups – or the majority of Americans – to suddenly fall in love with nuclear power

A study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters and discussed at National Geographic in February concluded that replacing coal power with cleaner-burning natural gas over the next 40 years will result only in 17-25 percent reduced warming by 2100 (“Natural Gas a Weak Weapon Against Climate Change, New Study Asserts“). It found that “a much sharper cut, 10 to 20-fold, in greenhouse gas emissions is needed to significantly reduce warming; switching from coal to low-emitting technologies, such as nuclear, wind or solar emissions would lower temperature increases by 57 to 81 percent.”

Natural gas still has an important role to play, however.  Patrick Bean, energy advisor at the American Clean Skies Foundation pointed out the importance of natural gas as a “bridge fuel” to cleaner energy sources.

But will natural gas will have a rocky road to being a “bridge fuel” or playing an even larger role.  Study author Ken Caldeira cautioned that further investments in natural gas “puts new money in the fossil fuel industry and expands the size of [its] political force,” and commented, “conservation and efficiency are essential” regardless of energy source.

What do you think? Should governments stop investing in natural gas vehicles which provide immediate emissions reductions, and wait for even cleaner emissions fuels?