How is Jason Kenney’s propaganda war room going to spin this one?
How much of Encana (now Ovintiv)’s frac’d methane is leaking via contaminated water wells in my community? How much in other communities in North America?
Diana Daunheimer’s Excellent Summation of AER & CAPP’s Evil Synergy Alberta as to why Trudeau govt caves in to oil & gas industry pathetic whines about costs, Delays requiring reductions in industry’s leaking methane for 2 years (and if reelected, for 4 more years?)
Methane emitted by humans vastly underestimated, researchers find by University of Rochester, Feb 19, 2020, phys.org
Methane emitted into the atmosphere can be sorted into two categories, based on its signature of carbon-14, a rare radioactive isotope. Fossil methane has been sequestered for millions of years in ancient hydrocarbon deposits and no longer contains carbon-14; biological methane is in contact with plants and wildlife on the planet’s surface and does contain carbon-14. Biological methane can be released naturally from sources such as wetlands or via anthropogenic sources such as landfills, rice fields, and livestock. Fossil methane can be emitted via natural geologic seeps or as a result of humans extracting and using fossil fuels. Credit: University of Rochester illustration / Michael Osadciw
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and large contributor to global warming. Methane emissions to the atmosphere have increased by approximately 150 percent over the past three centuries, but it has been difficult for researchers to determine exactly where these emissions originate; heat-trapping gases like methane can be emitted naturally, as well as from human activity.
University of Rochester researchers Benjamin Hmiel, a postdoctoral associate in the lab of Vasilii Petrenko, a professor of earth and environmental sciences, and their collaborators, measured methane levels in ancient air samples and found that scientists have been vastly underestimating the amount of methane humans are emitting into the atmosphere via fossil fuels. In a paper published in Nature, the researchers indicate that reducing fossil fuel use is a key target in curbing climate change.
Two types of methane
Methane is the second largest anthropogenic—originating from human activity—contributor to global warming, after carbon dioxide. But, compared to carbon dioxide, as well as other heat-trapping gases, methane has a relatively short shelf-life; it lasts an average of only nine years in the atmosphere, while carbon dioxide, for instance, can persist in the atmosphere for about a century. That makes methane an especially suitable target for curbing emission levels in a short time frame.
“If we stopped emitting all carbon dioxide today, high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would still persist for a long time,” Hmiel says. “Methane is important to study because if we make changes to our current methane emissions, it’s going to reflect more quickly.”
Methane emitted into the atmosphere can be sorted into two categories, based on its signature of carbon-14, a rare radioactive isotope. There is fossil methane, which has been sequestered for millions of years in ancient hydrocarbon deposits and no longer contains carbon-14 because the isotope has decayed; and there is biological methane, which is in contact with plants and wildlife on the planet’s surface and does contain carbon-14. Biological methane can be released naturally from sources such as wetlands or via anthropogenic sources such as landfills, rice fields, and livestock. Fossil methane, which is the focus of Hmiel’s study, can be emitted via natural geologic seeps or as a result of humans extracting and using fossil fuels including oil, gas, and coal.
Scientists are able to accurately quantify the total amount of methane emitted to the atmosphere each year, but it is difficult to break down this total into its individual components: Which portions originate from fossil sources and which are biological? How much methane is released naturally and how much is released by human activity?
“As a scientific community we’ve been struggling to understand exactly how much methane we as humans are emitting into the atmosphere,” says Petrenko, a coauthor of the study. “We know that the fossil fuel component is one of our biggest component emissions, but it has been challenging to pin that down because in today’s atmosphere, the natural and anthropogenic components of the fossil emissions look the same, isotopically.”
Turning to the past
In order to more accurately separate the natural and anthropogenic components, Hmiel and his colleagues turned to the past, by drilling and collecting ice cores from Greenland. The ice core samples act like time capsules: they contain air bubbles with small quantities of ancient air trapped inside. The researchers use a melting chamber to extract the ancient air from the bubbles and then study its chemical composition.
Hmiel’s research focused on measuring the composition of air from the early 18th century—before the start of the Industrial Revolution—to the present day. Humans did not begin using fossil fuels in significant amounts until the mid-19th century. Measuring emission levels before this time period allows researchers to identify the natural emissions absent the emissions from fossil fuels that are present in today’s atmosphere. There is no evidence to suggest natural fossil methane emissions can vary over the course of a few centuries.
By measuring the carbon-14 isotopes in air from more than 200 years ago, the researchers found that almost all of the methane emitted to the atmosphere was biological in nature until about 1870. That’s when the fossil component began to rise rapidly. The timing coincides with a sharp increase in the use of fossil fuels.
The levels of naturally released fossil methane are about 10 times lower than previous research reported. Given the total fossil emissions measured in the atmosphere today, Hmiel and his colleagues deduce that the manmade fossil component is higher than expected—25-40 percent higher, they found.
Climate change implications
The data has important implications for climate research: if anthropogenic methane emissions make up a larger part of the total, reducing emissions from human activities like fossil fuel extraction and use will have a greater impact on curbing future global warming than scientists previously thought.
To Hmiel, that’s actually good news. “I don’t want to get too hopeless on this because my data does have a positive implication: most of the methane emissions are anthropogenic, so we have more control. If we can reduce our emissions, it’s going to have more of an impact.”
Explore further New study: Fracking prompts global spike in atmospheric methane
More information: Preindustrial 14CH4 indicates greater anthropogenic fossil CH4 emissions, Nature (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-1991-8 , https://nature.com/articles/s41586-020-1991-8
Fossil Fuels Are to Blame for Soaring Methane Levels, Study Shows by The New York Times, Feb 19, 2020
Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in the earth’s atmosphere, new research has found.
The findings, published in the journal Nature, add urgency of efforts to rein in methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or intentionally releases the gas into air.
“We’ve identified a gigantic discrepancy that shows the industry needs to, at the very least, improve their monitoring,” said Benjamin Hmiel, a researcher at the University of Rochester and the study’s lead author. “If these emissions are truly coming from oil, gas extraction, production use, the industry isn’t even reporting or seeing that right now.”
Refer also to:
BC Tap Water Alliance Press Release: Attribution Science Proves Now is the Time for Canadians to Step Up and Sue the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Alberta Energy Regulator for Cumulative Fraud
Lawsuits in USA testing “attribution science.” Researchers can link weather events to emissions and companies responsible. “This body of literature…tells us that dangerous climate change is upon us, and people are suffering and dying…and it’s going to get worse.” For any potential uncertainty about climate attribution, there’s at least one truth that should override the rest: Fossil fuel companies “were aware decades ago what trouble climate change would be.”
The insanely polluting leaking oil & gas industry! New paper on methane leak detection & repair: More than 1,600 leaks & vents at only 36 sites in NW Alberta. Think of the cumulative pollution, community poisoning and public health harms, notably as more and more companies, enabled by politicians (industry’s maids), regulators and courts, use bankruptcy to avoid clean up.