This is not what the fossil fuel industry wants to hear, especially in Canada where mounting opposition to gas and bitumen pipelines challenges producers and their political minions.
A new report finds that we have been underestimating human-caused methane emissions by a whopping 40 per cent.
The oil and gas industry has had a far worse impact on the climate than previously believed, according to a study indicating that human emissions of fossil methane have been underestimated by up to 40%.
Methane has a greenhouse effect that is about 80% more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period and is responsible for at least 25% of global heating, according to the UN Environment Programme.
...The findings, published in Nature, suggest the share of naturally released fossil methane has been overestimated by “an order of magnitude”, which means that human activities are 25-40% more responsible for fossil methane in the atmosphere than thought.
This strengthens suspicions that fossil fuel companies are not fully accounting for their impact on the climate, particularly with regard to methane – a colourless, odourless gas that many plants routinely vent into the atmosphere.
An earlier study revealed methane emissions from US oil and gas plants were 60% higher than reported to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Accidents are also underreported. A single blowout at a natural gas well in Ohio in 2018 discharged more methane over three weeks than the oil and gas industries of France, Norway and the Netherlands released in an entire year. At the time, the company said it was unsure of the size of the leak. The immense scale was only revealed a year later when scientists analysed satellite data provided by the European Space Agency.
Fracking also appears to have worsened the problem. Atmospheric methane had started to flatten off at the turn of the century, but rose again after a surge in fracking activity in the US and elsewhere. The industry, however, continues to claim that the energy source can be used as a “bridge fuel” because it has lower carbon emissions than oil or coal, but this fails to account for leaks and flares of methane and other gases during extraction.So, a little bit here, a little bit there. Sure it adds up but does it really matter?
Dave Reay, the executive director of the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, said one of the key messages from the study was that the old bottom-up method of measuring methane emissions was “woefully inadequate”.
“We knew fossil fuel extraction – including fracking – was a major part of global methane emissions, but this impressive study suggests it is a far bigger culprit in human-induced climate change than we had ever thought,” he said.
“If correct, gas, coal and oil extraction and distribution around the world are responsible for almost half of all human-induced methane emissions. Add to that all the carbon dioxide that is then emitted when the fossil fuels are burned, and you need look no further for the seat of the climate emergency fire.”To see what "invisible" fugitive gas emissions look like, the New York Times last year published an item that showed gas sites as we see them then again as seen through an infrared lens. It's an eye-opener, one that you should check out.