The impacts of climate change are already occurring: There were 25 climate-related extreme weather events in the United States in the period from 2011 to 2012 that each caused at least $1 billion in damages. Fortunately, U.S. carbon pollution from energy consumption is at its lowest point since 1994, in part because electricity generation by natural gas is replacing electricity generation by coal. The modern fuel-economy standards issued by the Obama administration have reduced emissions as well. Nonetheless, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, or EIA, predicts that U.S. carbon pollution will begin to rise again by the end of this decade.
The United States is currently experiencing a boom in natural-gas production and use due to advances in drilling and extraction technologies. Because natural gas burns more cleanly than other fossil fuels and is currently affordable and abundant, it has been celebrated as a so-called bridge to a clean energy future and climate stabilization. In this scenario, natural gas would significantly displace coal in the electric-power sector, which is the largest sector in terms of primary energy consumption, and serve to balance more intermittent renewable sources of energy while we develop and deploy zero-carbon electricity systems.
For more on this topic, please see:
- U.S. Natural-Gas Use Must Peak by 2030 by Darryl Banks and Gwynne Taraska