A 2021 release from the UN Environment Program states “Methane emissions are driving climate change…”
Methane is the primary contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone, a hazardous air pollutant and greenhouse gas, exposure to which causes 1 million premature deaths every year. Methane is also a powerful greenhouse gas. Over a 20-year period, it is 80 times more potent at warming than carbon dioxide.
Methane has accounted for roughly 30 per cent of global warming since pre-industrial times and is proliferating faster than at any other time since record keeping began in the 1980s.
Dangers of methane are not in dispute:
Stanford led research shows global emissions of methane from human activities have barreled upward in recent decades, with fossil fuel sources and agriculture powering the climb…
Over the first two decades after its release, methane is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of warming the climate system.Methane and climate change
The vast majority of scholars expert in the field agree that human induced climate change poses an existential risk. They also agree that methane accelerates that danger.
One assumes the human instinct to survive is strong, and we routinely connect causes and outcomes. So having identified serious threats to life, we expend maximum effort to minimize the perils. Right?
Well, no. Just because something is logical doesn’t guarantee it will be done. And when the appropriate response requires altered behaviour and reduces individual and state wealth, resistance mounts rapidly. Mark Maslin, Professor of Earth System Science at University College London wrote The five corrupt pillars of climate change denial:
The fossil fuel industry, political lobbyists, media moguls and individuals have spent the past 30 years sowing doubt about the reality of climate change – where none exists. The latest estimate is that the world’s five largest publicly-owned oil and gas companies spend about US$200 million a year on lobbying to control, delay or block binding climate policy.
Maslin’s five corrupt pillars:
- Science denial: that the science of climate change is not settled, climate change is just part of the natural cycle, climate models are unreliable…
- Economic denial: that climate change is too expensive to fix…
- Humanitarian denial: that climate change is good for us; warmer summers in the temperate zone will make farming more productive. And polar ice melt opens northwest and northeast passages…
- Political denial: We cannot take action because other countries are not taking action. 1
- Crisis denial: We should not rush into changings things, especially given the uncertainty…
All of these pillars support Canada’s fossil fuel industries. The government of British Columbia issues regular press releases portraying itself as active in fighting climate change. But if we ignore the press releases and examine the science, a more honest picture forms.
The David Suzuki Foundation, in partnership with St. Francis Xavier University’s Flux Lab, conducted the first comprehensive measurement of fugitive methane emissions, both vented and leaked, in B.C. Results were recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. This research used a conservative methodology and sophisticated gas-detection instruments covering more than 8,000 kilometres of oil and gas roads in northeastern B.C. to determine a minimum inventory of methane emissions.
The findings reveal that methane emissions from B.C.’s Montney region alone are greater than what the provincial government has estimated for the entire industry. This suggests that methane emissions from the industry as a whole are at least 2.5 times higher than what the province estimates. In addition, this survey found that approximately 47 per cent of active wells are emitting methane-rich plumes.Mobile measurement of methane emissions from natural gas developments in northeastern British Columbia, Canada
America’s EPA states that methane emissions occur in all sectors of the natural gas industry, from production, through processing and transmission, to distribution. BC’s Oil and Gas Commission takes a laid-back approach. Its website suggests primary sources of escaping methane are rather limited. OCG also promises to continue consulting with industry and unidentified environmental organizations. OGC says it will support further research, while EPA offers a long list of technologies and practices that can reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations today.
The research promise is a stalling tactic that evades real issues. We don’t need further study. We need to implement containment measures already identified. We also need to establish a plan to end fossil fuel production within a decade. It would hurt financially, but human survival depends on this and every other producing region ending the reign of oil and gas promoters.
I don’t hold out hope for change in BC government policy, unless the next election ejects champagne socialists now leading the BC NDP and forces the party into a coalition with BC Greens, the only group with environmental credentials.
British Columbia’s lead agency charged with methane controls is the BC Oil and Gas Commission. The OGC board is chaired by Fazil Mihlar, a former Fraser Institute director with a long record of expressing that business should operate without restraints imposed by governments.
1 I hear this often. It’s a favourite of Canada’s fossil fuel supporters. They cannot dispute that Canadians are among the worst per capita emitters of greenhouse gases, so they say Canada contributes less to climate change than China. Years ago, Theodore Roosevelt repeated this advice, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”