Climate change

Climate expert Richard Muller urges China to use more gas

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 3:15am


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The most effective way to combat global warming would be for China to switch from burning coal to natural gas, says climate-change expert Richard Muller.

And he urged the United States to share the necessary technology with China in a lecture yesterday at the University of Hong Kong.

"The US is no longer in control; China and the developing world is in control," said the professor from the University of California, Berkeley, who in July announced his "conversion" from being a sceptic to a proponent of the theory that climate change is real and largely caused by man.

The physicist and climate scientist spent three years studying the earth's surface temperature changes over the past 250 years and found it matches greenhouse-gas records. It was something he had never thought he would be doing five years ago.

"Global warming is real and it's dangerous. It's bigger than most people thought, in a sense that humans are contributing to not just most of it, but all of it," Muller said.

According to the China National Coal Association, coal production rose by 3.6 per cent in the first three quarters of the year from the same period last year, to 2.88 billion tonnes. In the same period, the mainland consumed 3.02 billion tonnes of coal.

Muller said China, which now emits twice the volume of greenhouse gases as the United States, should switch to cleaner-burning natural gas.

He appealed to the US government to share natural gas technology with China, even if natural gas companies might not like the idea.

Though now a "converted sceptic", he pointed out that much of what was being said about global warming was exaggerated to grab attention. This resulted in people losing interest in the topic, which did not feature in the US presidential debates.

One such example was a claim, in an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in 2007 that had no referee, that the Himalayas could lose their ice by 2035.

"When you show images of polar bears dying, it grabs attention, but it's also misleading," he said. "We have to stick to scientific objectivity, be completely honest and never exaggerate."

Some of the "evidence" of global warming, Muller said, may not be connected to it.

"If you start picking the evidence that verifies what you want to conclude, then you are no longer a scientist," he said.