Greenhouse effect from fossil fuels felt almost immediately

Within months, CO2-trapped heat surpasses warming from combustion

natural gas burn, radiating heat

BURNING UP  The heat radiated by burning fossil fuels such as natural gas, shown, is overshadowed within months by the greenhouse gas effect of the released carbon dioxide, new research shows.

Tim Evanson/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The planet quickly feels the burn from the lasting effects of fossil fuel combustion, new research shows.

When a fossil fuel burns, it radiates heat and releases carbon dioxide. Once in the atmosphere, some of that CO2 can linger for thousands of years and trap heat that would otherwise leak into space. Over the lifetime of the released CO2, the trapped heat exceeds the heat released during combustion by a factor of more than 100,000, researchers report online June 2 in Geophysical Research Letters.

For the lump of coal in your Christmas stocking, the greenhouse warming surpasses the released heat in just 34 days.

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