Two new studies have been released in recent weeks that warn of the increasing dangers of rising methane levels in the atmosphere and express concern that the circumstance undermine the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate. This information is relevant for all who are concerned about the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline since over 90% of natural gas transmitted by pipelines is methane, and methane leaks from natural gas pipelines is serious threat. A study published last year by the journal Science estimates the annual leakage rate of methane from the production and transmission of oil and natural gas to be 2.3%, a quantity large enough to fuel 10 million homes.
The rise in atmospheric methane (CH4), which began in 2007, accelerated in the past 4 years. The growth has been worldwide, especially in the tropics and northern midlatitudes. With the rise has come a shift in the carbon isotope ratio of the methane. The causes of the rise are not fully understood, and may include increased emissions and perhaps a decline in the destruction of methane in the air. Methane’s increase since 2007 was not expected in future greenhouse gas scenarios compliant with the targets of the Paris Agreement, and if the increase continues at the same rates it may become very difficult to meet the Paris goals. There is now urgent need to reduce methane emissions, especially from the fossil fuel industry
A June 7 article published in Science, “Rising Methane: A New Climate Challenge,” that discusses the potential causes and consequences of our planet’s out-of-control methane, echoes the observations of the April article. It notes:
In 2007, the amount of methane in the atmosphere (CH4) began to rise after a 7-year period of near-zero growth. Recent research shows that a second step change occurred in 2014. From 2014 to at least the end of 2018, the amount of CH4 in the atmosphere increased at nearly double the rate observed since 2007.
An implicit message in these studies: don’t perpetuate the expanded use of natural gas by building more pipelines!