The US’ hidden methane problem

The US’ hidden methane problem

SOURCE: Climate Change News DATE: August 13, 2018 SNIP: Climate Home News analysis of government data has identified roughly 300 active and 200 abandoned coal mines, which are the source of almost one-tenth of US methane pollution. Methane has 34 times the long-term warming effect of carbon dioxide and accounts for 10% of US greenhouse gas emissions. Its emissions from the oil and gas industry and the efforts of the Trump administration to roll back regulations on them have been widely publicised. Meanwhile, US coal mines released 60.5 MMTCO2e of methane in 2016, with roughly the same warming impact as 13 million cars. Efforts to control the problem are being hampered despite those with the technical expertise claiming a whole industry could be built on capturing these emissions and turning them into electricity. The data shows many of the most gaseous abandoned mines are in Kentucky and West Virginia and belonged to large operators such as Alpha Natural Resources, which also did not respond to requests for comment, and Alliance Resource Partners. Sealing shafts and allowing abandoned mines to flood can significantly decrease methane emissions. Even as US coal production has plummeted over the past decade, and the number of active mines halved, coal mine methane emissions fell at a much slower pace, EPA data published in April shows. This indicates mines are not being fully sealed as they shut down. The EPA estimates that by 2020 coal mines will release methane with the equivalent warming impact of 166 coal-fired power plants. China, the world’s largest emitter, will account for nearly 53% of these emissions, while US mines will...
Mangroves and their deforestation may emit more methane than we thought

Mangroves and their deforestation may emit more methane than we thought

SOURCE: Mongabay DATE: July 13, 2018 SNIP: Mangroves, the dense tangled forests that buffer land from sea in many coastal areas of the tropics, are renowned for their ability to store carbon and help fight climate change. But new research finds mangroves may emit more carbon as methane than previously estimated – emissions made even worse by deforestation. The ability of mangroves to sequester carbon in the ground – termed “blue carbon” – is unparalleled, with previous research finding a tract of mangrove can bury 40 times more carbon than a similarly sized area of rainforest. Their results, published in Science Advances, reveal that mangrove soil carbon doesn’t remain stored in perpetuity. Some of it is transformed from carbon dioxide (CO2) to methane (CH4) by tiny microorganisims called archea, and is then released back into the atmosphere. Methane has a much bigger warming impact than carbon dioxide – 34 to 86 times more powerful – so even a bit of methane has the potential to offset mangrove CO2 storage. Ultimately, the team found that the methane released from mangrove soil carbon offsets blue carbon burial rates by an average of 20 percent. They say their results show that methane emissions should be factored into carbon accounting when evaluating the carbon storage potential of mangrove forests. The researchers say that deforestation has the potential to increase these emissions. Mangroves around the world are being deforested at a fast clip, with between 30 and 50 percent lost over the past half-century to agriculture, aquaculture and infrastructure...
Permafrost and wetland emissions could cut 1.5C carbon budget ‘by five years’

Permafrost and wetland emissions could cut 1.5C carbon budget ‘by five years’

SOURCE: Carbon Brief DATE: July 9, 2018 SNIP: Emissions of CO2 and methane from wetlands and thawing permafrost as the climate warms could cut the “carbon budget” for the Paris Agreement temperature limits by around five years, a new study says. These natural processes are “positive feedbacks” – so called because they release more greenhouse gases as global temperatures rise, thus reinforcing the warming. They have previously not been represented in carbon budget estimates as they are not included in most climate models, the researchers say. The findings suggest that human-caused emissions will need to be cut by an additional 20% in order to meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C or 2C limits, the researchers estimate. … The researchers then used the model to simulate the response of permafrost and natural wetlands to climate change. When the additional CO2 and methane emissions are incorporated, the available carbon budget shrinks substantially – falling to 533bn-753bn tonnes of CO2 for 1.5C, or 14-20 years of emissions. That means accounting for the impacts of permafrost and wetlands takes around five years off the 1.5C budget. And, as the table below shows, the budgets for the 1.5C overshoot and 2C scenarios are similarly...
Impact of natural greenhouse emissions on Paris targets revealed

Impact of natural greenhouse emissions on Paris targets revealed

SOURCE: Centre of Ecology and Hydrology, National Environment Research Council DATE: July 9, 2018 SNIP: Global fossil fuel emissions would have to be reduced by as much as 20% more than previous estimates to achieve the Paris Agreement targets, because of natural greenhouse gas emissions from wetlands and permafrost, new research has found. The additional reductions are equivalent to 5-6 years of carbon emissions from human activities at current rates, according to a new paper led by the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Natural wetlands are very wet regions where the soils emit methane, which is also a greenhouse gas. The methane emissions are larger in warmer soils, so they will increase in a warmer climate. Permafrost regions are those which are permanently frozen. Under a warming climate permafrost regions begin to thaw and as a result the soils begin to emit carbon dioxide, and in some cases methane, into the atmosphere. The greenhouse gas emissions from natural wetland and permafrost increase with global temperature increases, this in turn adds further to global warming creating a “positive feedback”...
WHAT CONSUMES MORE GAS THAN MANY OF CASCADIA’S CITIES COMBINED?

WHAT CONSUMES MORE GAS THAN MANY OF CASCADIA’S CITIES COMBINED?

SOURCE: Sightline Institute DATE: July 2, 2018 SNIP: The methanol refinery proposed for Kalama, Washington, is, by any measure, a goliath. On the banks of the Columbia River in southwest Washington, the project’s backers aim to build a petrochemical plant to convert natural gas, much of it fracked, into liquid methanol for export to China’s plastics industry and vehicle fleet. Operating the facility at full capacity would require staggering volumes of gas. A new Sightline analysis finds that the project’s demand for gas would dwarf the consumption of the Northwest’s biggest cities combined. Even adding up all the gas used by every home, business, and industry in Seattle, Portland, Tacoma, Spokane, Bellevue, Eugene, Bellingham, and Corvallis, it does not come close to equaling the voracious appetite of the methanol export plans at Kalama. Supplying that much gas would be a climate disaster. Researchers at Stockholm Environment Institute calculated that simply extracting and transporting the volumes of gas required by the facility could produce 4 million tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent more than than is emitted by every activity in the city of Seattle annually—and that’s just the total owing to methane leaks along the supply chain and does not include emissions at the site itself or when the methanol is ultimately...