Mineral Fuels Alternatives and the Greenhouse Effect

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 12
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1989
Distillation of the large and growing greenhouse literature indicates that: ò Global warming has occurred over the past century or more; ò Build-up of CO2 (and lesser greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere is a fact; ò This build-up is likely to cause further global warming. It does not appear possible to conclude that the observed C02 build up and observed global warming are linked; nor is it yet possible to forecast global or regional climate variation with conviction. The dominant greenhouse gas is C02 with about half the warming potential of those gases emitted by man's activities; and about 80% of anthropogenic C02 emissions are from the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil-fuel C02 emissions arg divided about equally between the developed countries of OECD and the rest of the world. However C02 output growth over the past decade was about 4% for OECD and some 40% elsewhere. Population growth and pressure for better living standards will ensure continued higher growth outside OECD. Uncertainty about the impact of increasing C02 emissions on climate, and the long lead-times involved in limiting the increase in atmospheric C02 concentrations, are good reasons for taking action now. Australia accounts for about 275 million tonnes a year or just over 1% of the CO2 emitted from the world's consumption of fossil fuels, and the fight to control global emissions will be won or lost elsewhere. Australia's participation will be by wise conselt and by example. In view of the uncertainties involved, it appears premature to take actions that might place an additional financial burden on our hard-pressed country. However, much can be done now that makes good economic sense and has the added benefit of limiting the growth in Australia's CO2 emissions. Natural gas emits less C02 per unit of energy when burned than either coal or oil. Furthermore, new gas-fired power stations utilise energy at considerably higher efficiency than is the case today with coal or oil. Because of much lower capital costs, there is a compelling economic case for permitting natural gas to compete freely with coal in the Australian power generation market.
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