SoCS: methane

Over the last ten or so years, I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about methane than most people.

This is due to the fighting against fracking here in my region with the Marcellus shale, in the shale plays in the US, and the export of the technology around the world.

I will spare you all the detailed things I learned about fracking and methane’s effects on climate from Bob Howarth, Tony Ingraffea, Sandra Steingraber, Walter Hang, and so many others back in the thick of the fight in New York State, which led to first an administrative ban and later a legislative one. One of my roles at the time was to comment on media articles as part of a rapid response team. I learned to argue from economic, health, environmental, social, and other perspectives, depending on the circumstances.

Fun times.

N0t really. It was super stressful. It was also important to get accurate information out into the public and I was very grateful that we were able to get some better policies in place.

Unfortunately, the damage done by fracking and by methane leakage is still with us, widespread and massive.

Atmospheric methane levels are at record highs and are part of the supercharging of global warming that we are seeing now. As a greenhouse gas, methane is more short-lived in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide but it is much more powerful in the near term. In a ten-year timeframe, methane is about a hundred times more powerful than carbon dioxide, so it is imperative to cut emissions of it now to avert various tipping points.

There was a major methane reduction initiative signed last year, which is good. The problem is that emissions have not been carefully measured or monitored by governments and the fossil fuel industry and estimates have been much lower than what some scientific studies have shown. I was just reading about a study earlier in the week and will try to insert the link after I’m done stream-of-conscious-ing.

It’s cold comfort that the problems the scientists and environmentalists have been pointing out for years are finally being more widely acknowledged when so much damage that could have been averted has already been done.

We need to stop adding fossil methane to our climate system in order to have any hope of meeting the 1.5 degree C level in the Paris accord.

I am very distressed about the breaks in the Nordstream pipelines. Every time I see video of the roiling, methane-saturated sea water, I feel sick, knowing how dangerous it is. It’s especially upsetting to see it in juxtaposition with the footage of the devastation caused by hurricane Ian. Most media coverage is finally acknowledging the role of climate change in supercharging storms but I wish they had been doing it years ago when it would have been easier to avert this level of greenhouse gases. We finally have some decent federal legislation in place but the scope of the problem outstrips that level of spending. The damage estimates from Ian will be higher than the climate spending in the law.

Our family over these last years has taken steps to stop using methane. When we installed a geothermal heat pump a few years ago, we were able to disconnect from the methane system. Our electricity comes from either our solar panels or a 100% renewable grid supplier, so we aren’t using electricity generated from burning fossil fuels. I continue to advocate for the transition away from methane and other fossil fuels.

It can’t come soon enough.
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The dangers of methane emissions

I contributed the prompt “climate” for Linda’s Just Jot It January today. I actually haven’t been using the prompts other than as usual for Stream of Consciousness Saturdays, but figured I should use the one I suggested. 😉

I have written often about climate change, growing out of my commenting on the fracking battle. I have done some posts on these topics here on Top of JC’s Mind, although most of my writing has been in comment sections on articles on environmental topics.

As you may know, while we hear the most about atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, atmospheric methane has also been rising to record levels. This is especially worrisome because, over a twenty year timeframe, methane is about 86 times as potent in heat trapping potential as carbon dioxide. Given that humanity is facing a critical window to lower greenhouse gas levels to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius, with a goal of 1.5 degrees, methane emissions are very dangerous as they could push the earth into some tipping points, such as permafrost melting and the release of methane hydrates from cold water seas, that would accelerate rather than slow global warming.

Enter the terrible problem of the Porter Ranch methane storage well leak. Not only is this leak causing evacuations, illness, a no-fly zone, and explosion risk, but also a 21% increase in the state of California’s methane emissions. This one leak amounts to 2.3% of the total carbon footprint of the state.

I want to share a Living on Earth interview with Dr. Anthony Ingraffea which aired recently. Tony Ingraffea was one of the heroes of the battle against fracking here in New York State and helped to raise the alarm, nationally and internationally, on the dangers of methane emissions from shale oil/gas development, processing, transport, and use. He has recently retired from Cornell University. I was fortunate to have heard him speak on a number of occasions during the fracking fight in New York. Ithaca is only about an hour’s drive from here.

I hope that the enormity of the Porter Ranch leak and the damage it is causing will mobilize people, especially policymakers, in the United States to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.
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JJJ 2016

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common sense climate science

Although we hear news about atmospheric carbon dioxide levels often, there are several other greenhouse gases which are also affecting the global climate.

One of the most potent greenhouse gases is methane which is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide when measured over a twenty year period. Atmospheric methane is also at record levels. After a relatively stable period, it began rising in 2007.

While no definitive science report has yet been published as to the cause of the rise, I have a common sense guess. The rise of atmospheric methane began to rise with the advent of high volume hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas in the United States. Other sources of methane, such as agriculture and waste disposal, have not seen any large expansion in this timeframe.

There have been a number of measurements that have traced atmospheric methane and other VOCs to fossil fuel sources, including well pads, compressor stations, processing equipment, and pipelines. A number of studies have been published using these data. These data show that actual methane emissions are much higher than those that the industry and the EPA had estimated.

This gives even more urgency to rapidly transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. It is critical to restrict methane emissions to avoid climate tipping points, such as large scale permafrost melting and the release of methane hydrates from the cold water seas.

I am proud that our grassroots organizing managed to hold off fracking here in New York State. There is still a long way to go, but we are making progress. We won’t stop until fracking and other unconventional fossil fuels are a thing of the past.

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