23 Jun 2017

Scientists dispute climate benefits of natural gas

8:03 pm on 23 June 2017

A trio of foreign think tanks are warning that natural gas offers a false hope in the fight against climate change.

Offshore natural gas, oil

Photo: 123RF

Many countries including New Zealand have pushed the search for natural gas, saying it is far cleaner than coal, which makes it a useful weapon in the battle with global warming.

Climate Action Tracker represents three European agencies: Climate Analytics, NewClimate Institute and Ecofys.

In its new report Foot off the Gas, Climate Action Tracker warned that increased reliance on natural gas risked what it called an "emissions lock-in".

This was because the push to replace coal with gas led to over-investment in gas infrastructure.

That encouraged greater use of gas to make the most of the initial expenditure.

The report quoted studies showing the electricity sector produced 25 percent of world's greenhouse gas emissions.

It said this would have a big impact on meeting the aims of the Paris Climate Agreement.

To meet Paris' aspirational goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C, emissions from electricity generation would have to zero by 2050.

To meet the easier goal, 2°C, this would have to be achieved by 2060.

Neither natural gas or coal would be any use under either scenario.

"Even though gas has played an important role in modestly improving carbon intensity of the power sector over the last decade, it is not a viable long-term solution to mitigating climate change," the report said.

"The reduction in warming projected by 2100 with a switch from coal to gas is only 25-45 percent of what is obtained with a switch to renewables."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs