Methane emissions from coalmines could stoke climate crisis

Methane emissions from coalmines could stoke climate crisis

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 15, 2019 SNIP: The methane emissions leaking from the world’s coalmines could be stoking the global climate crisis at the same rate as the shipping and aviation industries combined. Coalmines are belching millions of tonnes of methane into the atmosphere unchecked, because policymakers have overlooked the rising climate threat, according to new research. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that the amount of methane seeping from new and disused coalmines may have reached just under 40m tonnes last year. The potent greenhouse gas is a major concern among climate scientists because it has a far more powerful effect on global temperatures than carbon dioxide. The global energy watchdog estimates that one tonne of methane is the climate equivalent of 30 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This would put annual coalmine emissions broadly in line with the international aviation and shipping sectors combined. The IEA revealed its shock findings in the same report which found carbon emissions from the global energy industry had reached a new record in 2018. Methane is also known to escape from oil and gas wells, which has prompted calls for tougher regulation of the industry to reduce the climate impact. To date, coalmines have managed to avoid similar scrutiny because of a lack of data. The IEA said that methane leakage from coalmines would prove more difficult to tackle than the methane pollution from the oil and gas industry, and added it did not expect the situation to improve before...
The U.S. Natural Gas Boom Is Fueling A Global Plastics Boom

The U.S. Natural Gas Boom Is Fueling A Global Plastics Boom

SOURCE: NPR DATE: November 15, 2019 SNIP: Natural gas is mostly used for heating homes or fueling power plants. But when it comes out of the ground it contains another key ingredient — ethane, a building block of plastics — that is now fueling another booming industry. America is producing so much ethane that more than 300 new petrochemical and plastics plants are either planned or are under construction around the U.S. President Trump has touted the economic benefits of this, recently telling workers at a Shell ethane plant in Pennsylvania that “we are reclaiming our noble heritage as a nation of builders.” But there’s more ethane than existing U.S. plants can use, so in short order the U.S. has also become the world’s leading exporter of ethane. That’s feeding growing plastics industries in India and China, as well as Europe and those exports are expected to keep growing. Plastics and petrochemicals are increasingly important to the oil and gas industry. They’re expected to account for more than a third of growth in world oil demand by 2030, and half of all growth by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency. This worries environmentalists, who point out that the plastics industry accounts for about 4% of all carbon emissions, and that number is expected to increase. Much of the growth in plastics will be in Asia, where millions of people will be moving into the middle class in the next few...
Electric car future may depend on deep sea mining

Electric car future may depend on deep sea mining

SOURCE: BBC DATE: November 13, 2019 SNIP: The future of electric cars may depend on mining critically important metals on the ocean floor. That’s the view of the engineer leading a major European investigation into new sources of key elements. Demand is soaring for the metal cobalt – an essential ingredient in batteries and abundant in rocks on the seabed. Laurens de Jonge, who’s running the EU project, says the transition to electric cars means “we need those resources”. What is ‘deep sea mining’? It’s hard to visualise, but imagine opencast mining taking place at the bottom of the ocean, where huge remote-controlled machines would excavate rocks from the seabed and pump them up to the surface. The concept has been talked about for decades, but until now it’s been thought too difficult to operate in the high-pressure, pitch-black conditions as much as 5km deep. Now the technology is advancing to the point where dozens of government and private ventures are weighing up the potential for mines on the ocean floor. Why would anyone bother? The short answer: demand. The rocks of the seabed are far richer in valuable metals than those on land and there’s a growing clamour to get at them. Billions of potato-sized rocks known as “nodules” litter the abyssal plains of the Pacific and other oceans and many are brimming with cobalt, suddenly highly sought after as the boom in the production of batteries gathers pace. At the moment, most of the world’s cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo where for years there’ve been allegations of child labour, environmental damage and widespread...
Scientists Discover Microplastics In Oregon Oysters And Razor Clams

Scientists Discover Microplastics In Oregon Oysters And Razor Clams

SOURCE: OPB DATE: November 13, 2019 SNIP: Plastics are everywhere — including the stomachs of oysters and razor clams up and down the Oregon Coast. Several studies have shown that microplastics, which are tiny pieces of plastic that make up other larger plastic items, can make their way into fish, crustaceans, clams, oysters and ultimately into us, the people that eat them. The latest of these studies was published Tuesday in the journal Limnology and Oceanography Letters. It’s the first such scientific paper to look at microplastics in razor clams. Britta Baechler, a doctoral candidate at Portland State University and the lead author on the study, wanted to know if where the shellfish lived and the time of year they were harvested had any impact on how much plastic would be in the animal. Baechler and her colleagues sampled shellfish from 15 locations on the Oregon Coast. All told, they looked at 141 Pacific oysters and 142 Pacific razor clams. Samples were taken in both spring and summer. But the mollusks couldn’t escape the abundant plastic particles: only two organisms out of the almost 300 found were free of plastics. Earlier this year, an Oregon Public Broadcasting investigation, conducted with Elise Granek, a marine scientist at Portland State University and the principal investigator on Baechler’s paper, found microplastic in rivers and streams all around Oregon. Even remote and seemingly-pristine streams weren’t found to be microplastic-free. And if it’s in the water (and the air and our food) then it’s probably inside of us,...
Bacteria may contribute more to climate change as planet heats up

Bacteria may contribute more to climate change as planet heats up

SOURCE: Imperial College London DATE: November 12, 2019 SNIP: As bacteria adapt to hotter temperatures, they speed up their respiration rate and release more carbon, potentially accelerating climate change. By releasing more carbon as global temperatures rise, bacteria and related organisms called archaea could increase climate warming at a faster rate than current models suggest. The new research, published today in Nature Communications by scientists from Imperial College London, could help inform more accurate models of future climate warming. Bacteria and archaea, collectively known as prokaryotes, are present on every continent and make up around half of global biomass – the total weight of all organisms on Earth. Most prokaryotes perform respiration that uses energy and releases carbon dioxide – just like we do when we breathe out. The amount of carbon dioxide released during a given time period depends on the prokaryote’s respiration rate, which can change in response to temperature. However, the exact relationship between temperature, respiration rate and carbon output has been uncertain. Now, by bringing together a database of respiration rate changes according to temperature from 482 prokaryotes, researchers have found the majority will increase their carbon output in response to higher temperatures to a greater degree than previously thought. Lead researcher Dr Samraat Pawar, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: “Rising temperatures therefore cause a ‘double whammy’ effect on many prokaryote communities, allowing them to function more efficiently in both the short and long term, and creating an even larger contribution to global carbon and resulting temperatures.” Lead author of the new research, PhD student Thomas Smith from the Department of...
Global Pollution Is Rising Again and Won’t Peak Before 2040

Global Pollution Is Rising Again and Won’t Peak Before 2040

SOURCE: Bloomberg DATE: November 12, 2019 SNIP: Global greenhouse-gas pollution rose for a second year, ending a lull in emissions and putting the world on track for further increases through 2040 unless governments take radical action. The findings in the International Energy Agency’s annual report on energy paint a grim outlook for efforts to rein in climate change and mark a setback for the increasingly vocal environmental movement. It said emissions levels would have to start falling almost immediately to bring the world into line with ambitions in the Paris Agreement to limit temperature increases to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since the industrial revolution. Instead, the organization’s most likely scenario shows net emissions won’t reach zero until at least 2070, or 20 years past the deadline suggested by climate scientists. Strong economic growth, surging demand for electricity and slower efficiency gains all contributed to a 1.9% increase in carbon dioxide emissions from energy in 2018, the IEA said in a report released on Wednesday. It’s another indication that efforts to shift the world away from the most polluting fuels are moving too slowly to have a major impact on preserving the environment. Developing nations have deployed more coal plants even as industrial countries work to phase out the fuel, a legacy that will be felt for years to come since power plants are built to run for decades. Global coal demand rose for the second year in a row in 2018. Three quarters of that came in the Asia Pacific region. If global coal policies remain unchanged, then demand will keep expanding for two decades,...