Coal's Impact on the Greenhouse Effect

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1989
A number of gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, water vapour, nitrous oxide, ozone and chlorofluorocarbons are transparent to incoming short-wave radiation, but are relatively opaque to outgoing longwave radiation. Variations in the concentration of these gases in the troposphere can alter the thermal balance of the earth's atmosphere. Outgoing terrestrial radiation which would otherwise escape to space, is trapped within the inner layer of the atmosphere, resulting in a greenhouse effect. It is estimated that at present greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide, contribute about 50% to the greenhouse effect. However, in the future, the contribution made to the greenhouse effect by gases other than C02 will become increasingly more significant. Greenhouse gases arise from a wide range of sources and their escalating increease is largely related to an increase in the world's population, an increase in the standard of living of many areas and changes in lifestyle. The effect of increasing man-made greenhouse gases in the troposphere is unknown but it is proposed that it may increase temperature and may modify climate, agricultural response and land use. The sources of greenhouse gases are identified and found to comprise a wide range of activities. The contribution that coals use makes to the greenhouse effect is examined in detail. It is concluded that coals total contribution is small being about 10% of man made greenhouse gases. Envisaged expansion of coal's use will only cause a small increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Whilst developing technology for coal's use for power generation has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new plants by approximately 25%.
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