Toxic Algae Blooms Occurring More Often, May Be Caught in Climate Change Feedback Loop

Toxic Algae Blooms Occurring More Often, May Be Caught in Climate Change Feedback Loop

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: May 15, 2018 SNIP: Blooms of harmful algae in the nation’s waters appear to be occurring much more frequently than in the past, increasing suspicions that the warming climate may be exacerbating the problem. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) published newly collected data on Tuesday reporting nearly 300 large blooms since 2010. Last year alone, 169 were reported. While NOAA issues forecasts for harmful algal blooms in certain areas, the advocacy group called its report the first attempt to track the blooms on a nationwide scale. The study comes as scientists have predicted proliferation of these blooms as the climate changes, and amid increasing attention by the news media and local politicians to the worst cases. Just as troubling, these blooms could not only worsen with climate change, but also contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. [R]esearchers have found evidence that algal blooms are not just consequences of climate change, but are also sources of climate-warming emissions. In a study released in March, researchers affiliated with the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Sea Grant and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that, globally, lakes and manmade “impoundments” like reservoirs emit about one-fifth the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the burning of fossil fuels. The majority of that atmospheric effect comes from methane, an especially potent short-lived climate pollutant. “We found that, as the lakes go greener, more eutrophic, the atmospheric effect of the lakes skyrockets,” said John Downing, the paper’s lead researcher and director of the Minnesota Sea Grant. “That’s because plants are decomposing and shooting methane and CO2 into the...
The Arctic’s carbon bomb might be even more potent than we thought

The Arctic’s carbon bomb might be even more potent than we thought

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: March 19, 2018 SNIP: For some time, scientists fearing the mass release of greenhouse gases from the carbon-rich, frozen soils of the Arctic have had at least one morsel of good news in their forecasts: They predicted most of the gas released would be carbon dioxide, which, though a greenhouse gas, drives warming more slowly than some other gases. Scientists obviously weren’t excited about more carbon dioxide emissions, but it was better than the alternative: methane, a shorter-lived but far harder-hitting gas that could cause faster bursts of warming. Now even that silver lining is in doubt. Research released Monday suggests that methane releases could be considerably more prevalent as Arctic permafrost thaws. The research finds that in waterlogged wetland soils, where oxygen is not prevalent, tiny microorganisms will produce a considerable volume of methane, a gas that doesn’t last in the air much more than a decade but has a warming effect many times that of carbon dioxide over a period of 100 years. “What we can definitely say is that the importance of methane was underestimated until now in the carbon studies,” said Christian Knobloch, a researcher at Universität Hamburg in Germany and the lead author of the study, published in Nature Climate...
Stunning new research finds fracking a major source of carbon pollution in Pennsylvania

Stunning new research finds fracking a major source of carbon pollution in Pennsylvania

SOURCE: Think Progress DATE: February 21, 2018 SNIP: The evidence is now overwhelming that natural gas is not part of the climate solution, it is part of the problem. A new study finds that the methane escaping from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry “causes the same near-term climate pollution as 11 coal-fired power plants.” And that is “five times higher than what oil and gas companies report” to the state, according to analysis from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) based on 16 peer-reviewed studies. Natural gas is mostly methane, a super-potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period. So even a small leakage rate from the natural gas supply chain (production to delivery to combustion) can have a large climate impact  —  enough to gut the entire benefit of switching from coal-fired power to gas for a long, long...
Far More Methane Leaking at Oil, Gas Sites in Pennsylvania than Reported

Far More Methane Leaking at Oil, Gas Sites in Pennsylvania than Reported

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: February 16, 2018 SNIP: Leaks of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from oil and gas sites in Pennsylvania could be five times greater than industry reports to state regulators, according to a new analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund. Drawing from peer-reviewed research based on measurements collected downwind of oil and gas sites, along with government data, the EDF analysis estimates that the state’s oil and gas wells and infrastructure leak more than 520,000 tons of methane annually, largely due to faulty equipment. “This wasted gas causes the same near-term climate pollution as 11 coal-fired power plants and results in nearly $68 million worth of wasted energy resources,” the group said in its report, released Thursday. Methane, the primary constituent of natural gas, is a greenhouse gas about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a century. The Trump administration has been working to roll back several policies and initiatives that were designed to rein in methane emissions, most recently to end requirements to limit leaks at oil and gas sites on federal...
Trump Takes Aim at Obama-Era Rules on Methane Leaks and Gas Flaring

Trump Takes Aim at Obama-Era Rules on Methane Leaks and Gas Flaring

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: February 13, 2018 SNIP: The Trump administration has taken its first step on a slow path to loosen curbs on methane emissions from oil and gas operations on public land, after legal roadblocks stymied its efforts to quickly set aside Obama-era rules on the potent greenhouse gas. Matt Watson, associate vice president for climate energy at Environmental Defense Fund, said the Trump administration’s proposal would roll back every emissions reduction provision of the Obama rule. It would revert to a regime so lax that between 2009 and 2015, oil and gas producers on public and Indian lands vented, flared and leaked about 462 billion cubic feet of natural gas—enough gas to supply about 6.2 million households for a year. Estimated losses to the taxpayers in royalties ranged from $23 million to nearly $60 million annually. The Obama administration had estimated its rule to rein in BLM emissions would curb the equivalent of 4.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, as much as the greenhouse gas emissions from 950,000 vehicles. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to halt the Obama rule to rein in emissions from new oil and gas operations, and the agency abandoned an effort to collect information to write a rule for existing oil and gas facilities. The latest draft inventory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions shows methane emissions from oil and gas operations in 2016 were equivalent to 201.4 million tons of carbon dioxide, down 1 percent from the prior year but up 5 percent from 2012 levels. That puts the methane emissions from oil and gas industry leaks on...