BOULDER, Colo., Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Switching from coal to natural gas, even though natural gas emits far less carbon dioxide, wouldn't significantly slow down climate change, a U.S. study says.
The study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research underscores the conflicting ways in which fossil fuel burning affects Earth's climate.
While coal use contributes to warming because it emits heat-trapping carbon dioxide, it also releases comparatively large amounts of sulfates and other particles that, although detrimental to the environment, cool the planet by blocking incoming sunlight, an NCAR release said.
Natural gas operations, on the other hand, are known to leak a certain amount of methane, an especially potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
Computer simulations run by NCAR researcher Tom Wigley suggest a greater reliance on natural gas would begin to slow down the increase in global average temperature by 2050 but only by a few tenths of a degree.
"Relying more on natural gas would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, but it would do little to help solve the climate problem," Wigley said. "It would be many decades before it would slow down global warming at all, and even then it would just be making a difference around the edges."