Methane: The other important greenhouse gas, Environmental Defense Fund:
By emitting just a little bit of methane, mankind is greatly accelerating the rate of climatic change. – Steve Hamburg EDF Chief Scientist
What is methane?
Methane is the primary component of natural gas, a common fuel source.
Why are we concerned about it?
If methane is allowed to leak into the air before being used—from a leaky pipe, for instance—it absorbs the sun’s heat, warming the atmosphere. For this reason, it’s considered a greenhouse gas, like carbon dioxide.
Is it as important to address as carbon emissions?
While methane doesn’t linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat. In the first two decades after its release, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Both types of emissions must be addressed if we want to effectively reduce the impact of climate change.
About 25% of the manmade global warming we’re experiencing today is caused by methane emissions.
Where is it coming from?
Methane can come from many sources, both natural and manmade. But the largest source of industrial emissions is the oil and gas industry.
On Oct. 23, 2015, a massive natural gas leak erupted at a storage well operated by SoCal Gas in Aliso Canyon, outside of Los Angeles. The leak has caused serious health impacts for nearby residents of the Porter Ranch neighborhood, and it opened eyes across the state – and the country – to the problem of oil and gas methane pollution.
Weeks later, the leak is ongoing and the gas company estimates it will be spring of 2016 before it can be stopped.
Aerial footage filmed Dec. 17, 2015, shows potent, climate-damaging methane gases escaping from a massive natural gas leak at a storage facility in California’s Aliso Canyon, with the San Fernando valley pictured in the background. The giant methane plumes were made visible by a specialized infrared camera operated by an Earthworks ITC-certified thermographer.
‘Bridge’ fuel may escalate atmospheric greenhouse gas, Cornell University Chronicle, October 2015:
…thanks to a heavier dose of methane emissions resulting from increased use of shale gas, greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. may have been rising rapidly…
Curbing methane emission reductions leads to instant atmospheric concentration reductions that significantly slow global warming rates almost immediately, said Robert Howarth [Cornell’s Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology].
The natural gas industry is the largest source of methane emissions in the U.S. By reducing methane and soot (black carbon) emissions, society can buy time while moving aggressively toward a renewable energy economy, said Howarth.
While it is essential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, this alone would result in no measurable improvement on global warming rates in less than 30 years, he said.
“Methane emissions make it a disastrous idea to consider shale gas as a bridge fuel, letting society continue to use fossil fuels over the next few decades,” Howarth said. “Rather, we must move as quickly as possible away from all fossil fuels – shale gas, conventional natural gas, coal and oil – and toward a truly sustainable energy future using 21st-century technologies and wind and solar power.”
Premier Clark’s election campaign in 2013 promised that hundreds of billions of dollars from natural gas would result in a debt-free province, flush with new money for education, healthcare and other cash-starved social programs. Even better, she said, gas, BC’s clean fossil fuel, would replace coal, BC’s dirty fossil fuel.
Of course, we’ll still ship as much coal as we can and, when it comes to matters of the environment, opinions of peer-reviewed experts will be disregarded and disparaged. As our most gaseous minister says, “I’m not going to buy any of this.”
Since the actual result from gas development is expense, not income, and increased, not lessened, pollution, perhaps what Coleman said will be the response of BC voters when next given opportunity to evaluate Liberal promises.