Coal has always been the number one fossil fuel in our society’s list of burnable sunlight, which of course it simply is, which also begs the question why is solar taking so long to kick off? Sorry, going off on a tangent here, I think I’ll reserve that for another post. Back to the main subject.
Coal is by far the most worrisome and dirty of the fossil fuels, although its brother oil is not to be easily beaten in that respect, and has been utilised for centuries to provide electricity to our lights and heat our homes. Throughout this time, a frankly astounding amount of CO2 has been emitted into the surrounding environment and atmosphere, warming our planet and screwing with multiple climatic, biological and ocean-atmosphere interactions and feedbacks which we’re only just beginning to experience.
Only recently, the Mauna Loa carbon-detection research station in Hawaii, sitting high atop the largest volcano in the world, measured an atmospheric ppm value just shy of 400; that’s a massive figure. In fact this is the highest recorded atmospheric carbon content in the history of measurements, indicating that despite our best, and sometimes admirably successful attempts at culling emissions, it’s still doing its own thing.
This of course can be explained by a few important factors, most predominantly the rise of the BRIC nations, Brazil, Russia, India and China, who are pumping out carbon at a rate equivalent to the peak of our Western expansions, with many more countries joining them. Alongside this, the simple physical fact that carbon sticks around in the atmosphere for at least half a century, means that a good portion of the continued increase we are seeing is due to pollution spewed out within the past several years - even if we cut carbon emission to zero as of this moment globally, it would still keep going for up until past 2020.
So I find it strange that, in reading an article recommended via Grist today, and with the knowledge that natural gas, that lesser-of-two-evils fossil fuel (or perhaps not) is taking the energy world by storm, we still haven’t fully grasped this ‘green’ concept.
Natural gas has been becoming increasingly popular in many developed nations who are trying to curb their carbon emissions through the cutting back of coal and oil burning, as it is not only just as readily available, but technically, and I emphasise technically, emits less carbon than coal when burnt. This is the reason that countries are adopting a more natural gas-orientated energy mix in future policy, as they see it as a way of securing stable energy sources at a reduced cost to the environment and wallets.