If growth in carbon dioxide emissions is to be constrained and even reversed then the world cannot afford a coal renaissance, scientists have said.
Some commentators have argued that falling reserves of oil and gas will automatically limit CO2’s rise.
But at an American Geophysical Union meeting, researchers said reserves of coal dwarfed those of other fuels.
It was even possible oil’s demise could trigger an acceleration in emissions through more coal use, they added.
“We can replace oil with liquid fuels derived from coal,” said Ken Caldeira from the Carnegie Institution at Stanford University in California.
“But these liquid fuels emit even more carbon dioxide than oil, so the end of oil can mean an increase in coal and even more carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, and even more rapid onset of dangerous climate change.”