September 16, 2008
Scientists Call for Curbing Coal Burning
U.S. scientists say they've determined curbing carbon dioxide emissions from coal might avert climate danger.
Researchers at Columbia University's Earth Institute said the continuing rise in the planet's atmospheric CO2 levels resulting from burning fossil fuels might be kept below harmful levels if emissions from coal are phased out within the next few decades.
The researchers, including James Hansen of the U.S. space agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and climatologist Pushker Kharecha, said the burning of fossil fuels has accounted for about 80 percent of the rise of atmospheric CO2 since the pre-industrial era, to its current level of 385 parts per million.
"This is the first paper that explicitly melds the two vital issues of global peak oil production and human-induced climate change," Kharecha said. "We found that because coal is much more plentiful than oil or gas, reducing coal emissions is absolutely essential to avoid dangerous climate change."
The scientists report their research in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles. Kharecha is also author of a related article, "How Will the End of Cheap Oil Affect Future Global Climate?"