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.