Science Scoops: Scientists Turn Down the Heat

Are you someone who likes to blame the oil and gas industries for global warming? Well, sit down, because you may not like this new, albeit controversial, news.

According to a report in New Scientist magazine, “oil and gas will run out too fast for doomsday global warming scenarios to materialize.”

In other words, all of Earth's oil and gas reserves will be burned before there is enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to cause the most horrific scenarios envisioned by global warming proponents—namely scorching temperatures and melting polar caps.

In fact, geologists Kjell Aleklett, Anders Sivertsson, and Colin Campbell (Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden) predict that Earth's oil supplies could be fully consumed as early as 2010; and our gas supplies, they say, will evaporate shortly after that.

But Nebojsa Nakicenovic, an energy economist at the University of Vienna in Austria, believes that the Swedish geologists are being too conservative in their estimates of Earth's gas and oil supplies. Not only that, he warns, but “there's a huge amount of coal underground that could be exploited.”

Burning coal would be worse for the environment than burning oil or gas. Coal produces more CO2 for each unit of energy, as well as releases large amounts of particulates into the atmosphere. If we do ultimately replace oil and gas with coal, Aleklett admits that the global warming doomsday scenarios would come true. Switching from oil to coal, he says, would be disastrous.

Vocabulary

  • controversial: Producing or being marked by a dispute.
  • doomsday: Inevitable destruction or ruin.
  • global warming: An increase in the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere.
  • particulate: A separate particle.
  • scenario: A model of an expected sequence of events.

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Activity

  1. What kind of a resource is coal?
  2. Resources such as coal, oil, and gas cannot be replaced. What are some resources that can be used to create energy and can be replaced?
  3. Why do you think that people use resources that cannot be replaced in addition to resources that can be replaced?