Greenhouse gas nitrous oxide emissions have ‘increased substantially’ in the past decade

Greenhouse gas nitrous oxide emissions have ‘increased substantially’ in the past decade

SOURCE: ABC (Australia) DATE: November 18, 2019 SNIP: Emissions of nitrous oxide — a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide — are going up faster than we thought. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This means each molecule of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere can capture 300 times more heat than a molecule of carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide is emitted predominantly from agriculture using nitrogen fertiliser, and to a lesser extent burning fossil fuels and biofuels. It’s countries in east Asia and South America that are making the biggest contribution to the increasing emissions, according to a study published today in the journal Nature Climate Change. Natural sources of nitrous oxide include our oceans and rainforests, but it’s the human sources that are of most cause for concern — specifically agriculture, including nitrogen fertiliser use and livestock manure. We’ve known for decades that nitrous oxide emissions are increasing, but since 2009 there has been a “substantial increase” in these emissions, said Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon project and an author of the new research. It’s been known for a while that there isn’t a linear relationship between nitrogen fertiliser input and nitrous oxide emissions, said Richard Eckard, director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre at the University of Melbourne. “When you exceed the [plant] system’s capacity to use that nitrogen fertiliser, the efficiency goes out the window, and the nitrogen can leak out of the cycle,” Professor Eckard said. “That plays out in some industries where the recommended amount of fertiliser is exceeded, and you...
It’s a Vast, Invisible Climate Menace. We Made It Visible.

It’s a Vast, Invisible Climate Menace. We Made It Visible.

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: November 8, 2019 SNIP: To the naked eye, there is nothing out of the ordinary at the DCP Pegasus gas processing plant in West Texas, one of the thousands of installations in the vast Permian Basin that have transformed America into the largest oil and gas producer in the world. But a highly specialized camera sees what the human eye cannot: a major release of methane, the main component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas that is helping to warm the planet at an alarming rate. Two New York Times journalists detected this from a tiny plane, crammed with scientific equipment, circling above the oil and gas sites that dot the Permian, an oil field bigger than Kansas. In just a few hours, the plane’s instruments identified six sites with unusually high methane emissions. Methane is loosely regulated, difficult to detect and rising sharply. The Times’s aerial and on-the-ground research, along with an examination of lobbying activities by the companies that own the sites, shows how the energy industry is seeking and winning looser federal regulations on methane, a major contributor to global warming. Operators of the sites identified by The Times are among the very companies that have lobbied the Trump administration, either directly or through trade organizations, to weaken regulations on methane, a review of regulatory filings, meeting minutes and attendance logs shows. These local companies, along with oil-industry lobby groups that represent the world’s largest energy companies, are fighting rules that would force them to more aggressively fix emissions like these. Next year, the administration could move forward with...
Climate change: Electrical industry’s ‘dirty secret’ boosts warming

Climate change: Electrical industry’s ‘dirty secret’ boosts warming

SOURCE: BBC DATE: September 13, 2019 SNIP: It’s the most powerful greenhouse gas known to humanity, and emissions have risen rapidly in recent years, the BBC has learned. Sulphur hexafluoride, or SF6, is widely used in the electrical industry to prevent short circuits and accidents. But leaks of the little-known gas in the UK and the rest of the EU in 2017 were the equivalent of putting an extra 1.3 million cars on the road. Levels are rising as an unintended consequence of the green energy boom. Cheap and non-flammable, SF6 is a colourless, odourless, synthetic gas. It makes a hugely effective insulating material for medium and high-voltage electrical installations. It is widely used across the industry, from large power stations to wind turbines to electrical sub-stations in towns and cities. It prevents electrical accidents and fires. However, the significant downside to using the gas is that it has the highest global warming potential of any known substance. It is 23,500 times more warming than carbon dioxide (CO2). It also persists in the atmosphere for a long time, warming the Earth for at least 1,000 years. Where once large coal-fired power stations brought energy to millions, the drive to combat climate change means they are now being replaced by mixed sources of power including wind, solar and gas. This has resulted in many more connections to the electricity grid, and a rise in the number of electrical switches and circuit breakers that are needed to prevent serious accidents. Collectively, these safety devices are called switchgear. The vast majority use SF6 gas to quench arcs and stop short circuits. Researchers...
No laughing matter

No laughing matter

SOURCE: Harvard Gazette DATE: June 6, 2019 SNIP: About a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere is covered in permafrost. Now, it turns out these permanently frozen beds of soil, rock, and sediment are actually not so permanent: They’re thawing at an increasing rate. Human-induced climate change is warming these lands, melting the ice and loosening the soil, and that can cause severe damage. Forests are falling; roads are collapsing; and, in an ironic twist, the warmer soil is releasing even more greenhouse gases, which could further exacerbate the effects of climate change. Shortly after scientists first noticed signs of thaw in the early 1970s, they rushed to monitor emissions of the two most influential greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide and methane. But until recently, the threat of the third-most-prevalent gas, nitrous oxide (N2O) — known in dentistry as laughing gas — has largely been ignored. In a 2010 paper, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rated permafrost nitrous oxide emissions as “negligible,” and few studies counter this claim. But a paper published this month in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics shows that nitrous oxide emissions from thawing Alaskan permafrost are about 12 times higher than previously assumed. Since N2O traps heat nearly 300 times more efficiently than carbon dioxide does, this revelation could mean that the Arctic — and the global climate — are in more danger than we thought. “Much smaller increases in nitrous oxide would entail the same kind of climate change that a large plume of CO2would cause,” said Wilkerson, the paper’s first author and a Ph.D. student at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences...
Fast-Rising Demand for Air Conditioning Is Adding to Global Warming. The Numbers Are Striking.

Fast-Rising Demand for Air Conditioning Is Adding to Global Warming. The Numbers Are Striking.

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: November 12, 2018 SNIP: Increasing demand for home air conditioning driven by global warming, population growth and rising incomes in developing countries could increase the planet’s temperatures an additional half a degree Celsius by the end of the century, according to a new report by the Rocky Mountain Institute. The demand is growing so fast that a “radical change” in home-cooling technology will be necessary to neutralize its impact, writes RMI, an energy innovation and sustainability organization. The problem with air-conditioning comes from two sources: the amount of energy used, much of which is still powered by carbon-emitting coal, oil and gas generation, and the leaking of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) coolants, which are short-lived climate pollutants many times more potent than carbon dioxide. Approximately 1.2 billion window-mounted air conditioning units and other small-scale, room-cooling devices are currently in use worldwide. By 2050, the figure is expected to increase to 4.5 billion, according to RMI. Many of today’s air conditioners use hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), coolants that are short-lived climate pollutants that can leak into the atmosphere at the end of an air conditioner’s useful life when the devices are destroyed. HFCs remain in the atmosphere for an average of 14 years and are approximately 1,000 to 3,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Energy demand is the other side of the residential cooling problem. RMI estimates that the amount of energy that will be required to power the 4.5 billion window air conditioners expected by 2050 is equivalent to the current electricity demand of the United States, Germany and Japan combined. Growth in...