Carbon Dioxide Emissions in a Methane Economy

Jesse H. Ausubel, Arnulf Grübler, and Nebojsa Nakicenovic

Program for the Human Environment
The Rockefeller University
1230 York Avenue
New York, NY 10021-6399 USA
Phone 212-327-7917 • Fax 212-327-7519

Citation: Climatic Change 12 (1988) 245-263.

PDF Full Text: co2-methane.pdf


Increasing reliance on natural gas (methane) to meet global energy demands holds implications for atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Analsysis of these implications is presented, based on a logistic substitution model viewing energy technologies like biological species invading an echoniche and substituting in case of superiority for existing speices. This model suggests gas will become the dominant energy source and remain so for 50 years, peaking near 70 percent of world supply. Two scenarios of energy demand are explored, one holding per capita consumption at current levels, the second raising the global average in the year 2100 to the current U.S. level. In the first ('efficiency') scenario concentrations peak about 450 ppm, while in the second ('long wave') they near 600 ppm. Although projected CO2 concentrations in a 'methane economy' are low in relation to other scenarios, the projections confirm that global climate warming is likely to be a major planetary concern throughout the twenty-first century. A second finding is that data on past growth of world per capita energy consumption group neatly into two pulses consistent with long-wave theories in economics.

Posted 1.08.03