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Climate: Scientists call for cuts in methane emissions

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Cutting methane could slow global temperature surge.

Action could help avert climate tipping points

Staff Report

FRISCO — Leading scientists say the U.S. must do more to cut methane emissions from fossil fuel exploitation and other sectors to try and avoid reaching climate tipping points that could have disastrous implications.

Methane is a much more potent heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide, but it only stays in the atmosphere for about 12 years, which means that big cuts could have a tangible short-term benefit in the race to cap global warming. Continue reading

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Study: Unchecked methane emissions from fossil fuel exploitation may push Earth past the climate tipping point

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FrackNation … but for how long?

Is natural gas really the lesser of two evils?

Staff Report

FRISCO — As frackers desperately try to pump every last bit of gas from the ground before the global warming clock runs out, scientists warn that methane emissions could push Earth over a climate tipping point in just a few years.

“We have to control methane immediately, and natural gas is the largest methane pollution source in the United States,” said Robert Howarth, greenhouse gas expert and ecology and environmental biology professor at Cornell University. “If we hit a climate-system tipping point because of methane, our carbon dioxide problem is immaterial. We have to get a handle on methane, or increasingly risk global catastrophe.” Continue reading

Environment: Deepwater Horizon blowout may have released 250,000 tons of natural gas into the atmosphere

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The massive Deepwater Horizon oll spill spreads a sheen across a huge section of the Gulf of Mexico in May 2010. Photo courtesy NASA.

Findings show value of long-term post-spill monitoring

Staff Report

FRISCO — Methane-munching microbes in the Gulf of Mexico may have been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of gas released during the 84-day Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in 2010.

“Most of the gas injected into the Gulf was methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global climate change, so we were naturally concerned that this potent greenhouse gas could escape into the atmosphere,” said University of Georgia researcher Samantha Joye.” Many assumed that methane-oxidizing microbes would simply consume the methane efficiently, but our data suggests that this isn’t what happened.” Continue reading

Colorado: Industry, state regulators consistently underestimate air pollution from oil and gas operations

The proliferation of oil and gas drilling in Colorado raises serious questions about water quality impacts. Photo courtesy SkyTruth.

The proliferation of oil and gas drilling in Colorado raises serious questions about air quality impacts. Photo courtesy SkyTruth.

New research show true magnitude of fossil fuel pollution along Front Range

Staff Report

FRISCO — Heat-trapping greenhouse gases and other air pollutants are leaking from Colorado oil and gas operations at a far higher rate than previously estimated.

Two days of aerial surveys showed methane leaking at three times the rate predicted by inventory estimates, and seven times as much benzene, a cancer-causing air toxic.Emissions of other chemicals that contribute to summertime ozone pollution were about twice as high as estimates, according to the new paper, accepted for publication in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. Continue reading

Climate: Wetlands seen as key source of methane

New study shows need for better monitoring

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Can you see the methane bubbling up? bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wetlands have been pinpointed as one of the largest sources of global methane emissions and new research shows that much more of the potent heat-trapping greenhouse gas will be pumped into the atmosphere as northern wetlands thaw and tropical ones warm, according to a new international study led by a University of Guelph researcher.

The study, published in Global Change Biology, is based on one of the largest-ever analyses of global methane emissions, with more than 20,000 field data measurements collected from 70 sites across arctic, temperate and tropical regions.

The results show the need for improved monitoring of wetlands and human changes to those ecosystems – a timely topic as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change prepares to examine land use impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, according to Prof. Merritt Turetsky, lead author of the new study. Continue reading

Climate: Methane emissions from freshwater ecosystem set to soar as Earth warms

New study assesses freshwater methane on a global scale

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Microorganisms in freshwater ecosystems generate significant amounts of methane.

Staff Report

FRISCO — After recalculating Earth’s greenhouse gas budget, Princeton scientists say that methane emissions will start increasing at a faster pace than carbon dioxide, primarily due to the release of methane from microscopic freshwater organisms.

Methane is about 30 times more effective than CO2 at trapping the sun’s heat, and for every degree of warming, methane emissions will increase several times over, according to the research published in Nature.

Continue reading

Study: Methane emission estimates much too low

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America’s natural gas infrastructure has leakage issues.

Methane emissions from natural gas industry facilities and other sources may be up to 75 percent higher than EPA estimates

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A comprehensive air quality analysis shows that most estimates of methane emissions from various sources — including the natural gas industry — are much too low, a result that didn’t surprise the scientists who led the study. Total U.S. methane emissions are probably about 25 to 75 percent higher than EPA estimates.

“People who go out and and actually measure methane pretty consistently find more emissions than we expect,” said the lead author of the new analysis, Adam Brandt, an assistant professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University. “Atmospheric tests covering the entire country indicate emissions around 50 percent more than EPA estimates,” said Brandt. “And that’s a moderate estimate.” Continue reading

Global warming: Of cattle and climate …

Efforts to reduce greenhouse gases should focus on livestock

Taking a lunch break during a search for orchids in the Austrian countryside.

Too many cows? Scientists say cutting methane emissions from ruminant livestock could help in race to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. bberwyn photo.

Staff report

FRISCO — Focusing on livestock to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could help humanity make some headway in the race to prevent catastrophic climate change, according to an international research team that took a close look at methane and nitrous oxide.

Cutting releases of methane and nitrous oxide, two gases that pound-for-pound trap more heat than CO2, should be considered alongside the challenge of reducing fossil fuel use, the scientists concluded in their analysis, published last week as an opinion commentary in Nature Climate Change, a professional journal.

“Because the Earth’s climate may be near a tipping point to major climate change, multiple approaches are needed for mitigation,” said Oregon State University forestry professor William Ripple. “We clearly need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels to cut CO2 emissions. But that addresses only part of the problem. We also need to reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gases to lessen the likelihood of us crossing this climatic threshold,” Ripple said. Continue reading

New study ups estimates of U.S. methane emissions

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U.S. emissions of heat-trapping methane may be much higher than previously thought.

Previous data may have seriously underestimated methane from fossil fuel production

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado regulators preparing to tackle heat-trapping methane have their work cut out — a new landmark study suggests that methane emissions from fossil fuel development in the south-central U.S. may be five times higher than previous estimates, and emissions from livestock operations may be twice as high.

Total methane emissions in the United States appear to be as much as 1.7 times higher than believed, a team of researchers said after analyzing detailed atmospheric measurements.

“This paper provides the most solid and the most detailed estimate to date of total U.S. methane emissions,” said coauthor Anna M. Michalak, a faculty member in the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science. Michalak is also an associate professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford University. “This was really, from beginning to end, just a very clean analysis.” Continue reading

Climate: Protecting the cryosphere

International groups seeks immediate cuts in black carbon, methane, HFCs to protect world’s snow and ice regions

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Antarctic glaciers may last a little longer with immediate cuts to short-lived climate pollutants. bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Along with the larger battle to reduce emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases, policy makers should also consider how they can cut short-lived climate pollutants in order to protect the world’s snow and ice.

A study released earlier this month shows that immediate cuts to short-lived pollutants could could prevent as much as a full degree Celsius of additional warming in the Arctic by 2050, preventing up to 40 percent of projected summer sea ice loss and 25 percent of springtime snow cover loss compared to business as usual emissions.

The report from the World Bank and the International Climate Cryosphere Initiative also spells out how immediate action could save millions of lives and protect critical ecosystems. Read the cryosphere action plan here.

“Reductions in emissions from diesel engines, open field and forest burning, and wood stoves will have a significant impact on the Arctic, while reducing emissions from the burning of biomass and coal for residential cooking and heating will have the largest impact on the Himalayas,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.

“If you cut these using existing technology right now, you can cut the rate of climate-change in half. This is a no-brainer. It saves lives, crops, and it’s not going to shut down anybody’s life,” Zaelke said. “This is a piece we can get started on right now, a damn big piece, the only thing we can do to produce results in the next 50 years …  A lot of these changes can be done quickly, elegantly … with existing technology,” he said. Continue reading

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