Global Warming’s Terrifying New Chemistry | The Nation

Global warming is, in the end, not about the noisy political battles here on the planet’s surface. It actually happens in constant, silent interactions in the atmosphere, where the molecular structure of certain gases traps heat that would otherwise radiate back out to space. If you get the chemistry wrong, it doesn’t matter how many landmark climate agreements you sign or how many speeches you give. And it appears the United States may have gotten the chemistry wrong. Really wrong. There’s one greenhouse gas everyone knows about: carbon dioxide, which is what you get when you burn fossil fuels. We talk about a “price on carbon” or argue about a carbon tax; our leaders boast about modest “carbon reductions.” But in the last few weeks, CO2’s nasty little brother has gotten some serious press. Meet methane, otherwise known as CH4. In February, Harvard researchers published an explosive paper in Geophysical Research Letters. Using satellite data and ground observations, they concluded that the nation as a whole is leaking methane in massive quantities. Between 2002 and 2014, the data showed that US methane emissions increased by more than 30 percent, accounting for 30 to 60 percent of an enormous spike in methane in the entire planet’s atmosphere. To the extent our leaders have cared about climate change, they’ve fixed on CO2. Partly as a result, coal-fired power plants have begun to close across the country. They’ve been replaced mostly with ones that burn natural gas, which is primarily composed of methane. Because burning natural gas releases significantly less carbon dioxide than burning coal, CO2 emissions have begun to trend slowly downward, allowing politicians to take a bow. But this new Harvard data, which comes on the heels of other aerial surveys showing big methane leakage, suggests that our new natural-gas infrastructure has been bleeding methane into the atmosphere in record quantities. And molecule for molecule, this unburned methane is much, much more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. The EPA insisted this wasn’t happening, that methane was on the decline just like CO2. But it turns out, as some scientists have been insisting for years, the EPA was wrong. Really wrong. This error is the rough equivalent of the New York Stock Exchange announcing tomorrow that the Dow Jones isn’t really at 17,000: Its computer program has been making a mistake, and your index fund actually stands at 11,000. These leaks are big enough to wipe out a large share of the gains from the Obama administration’s work on climate change—all those closed coal mines and fuel-efficient cars. In fact, it’s even possible that America’s contribution to global warming increased during the Obama years. The methane story is utterly at odds with what we’ve been telling ourselves, not to mention what we’ve been telling the rest of the planet. It undercuts the promises we made at the climate talks in Paris. It’s a disaster—and one that seems set to spread.

Read more here: Global Warming’s Terrifying New Chemistry | The Nation

Groundbreaking Study: Water Demand Impacts Fracking Worldwide

On World Water Day, the World Resources Institute (WRI) has released a study that maps for the first time the water resources available to support fracking in the world’s largest shale exploration areas. The study, “Global Shale Gas Development: Water Availability and Business Risk,” found that 40 percent of countries with the largest shale energy resources could suffer from water stress: competing demands on their renewable water supply that could make it problematic to use that water for fracking.

via Groundbreaking Study: Water Demand Impacts Fracking Worldwide.

Yale Environment 360: Fracking May Induce Quakes at Greater Distance than Previously Thought

Hydraulic fracturing and underground wastewater disposal may trigger earthquakes at tens of kilometers from the wells in which water is injected — a greater range than previously thought, according to new research from seismologists. In one case, an earthquake swarm in Oklahoma has been linked to a cluster of fracking injection wells up to 50 kilometers (31 miles) away, Cornell University researchers report. So-called “induced seismicity” — when human activity causes tremors in the earth’s crust — is gaining attention as reports of earthquakes within the central and eastern U.S. have increased dramatically over the past few years. The rise coincides with increased hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas, and the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells in many locations, including Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), an average rate of 100 earthquakes per year above a magnitude 3.0 occurred in the three years from 2010-2012, compared with an average rate of 21 events per year observed from 1967-2000. The agency is trying to “stay agnostic as to whether the earthquakes are induced or natural,” says a USGS geophysicist, since, currently, it’s difficult to determine what triggers a particular event.

via Yale Environment 360: Fracking May Induce Quakes at Greater Distance than Previously Thought.

Stronger ‘Frackquakes’ Are On The Way, Scientists Warn | ThinkProgress

According to multiple reports, scientists attending the Seismological Society of America annual meeting agreed that fracking can change the state of stress on existing faults to the point of failure, causing earthquakes. That stress is generally not caused by fuel extraction itself, but by a process called “wastewater injection,” where companies take the leftover water used to frack wells and inject it deep into the ground.

via Stronger ‘Frackquakes’ Are On The Way, Scientists Warn | ThinkProgress.

Open Letter concerning anti-fracking protests at the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq Nation

First, it is critical to acknowledge that Indigenous Peoples have rights to their lands, territories and resources that predate the creation of the Canadian state. These pre-existing rights are affirmed in the Peace and Friendship Treaties, in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, and in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as in authoritative international human rights instruments including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada’s failure to protect these rights has been repeatedly condemned by international human rights bodies, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which found that the comprehensive claims processes fall below international standards of justice. Your government can make a meaningful contribution by communicating clearly that these rights exist and must be respected.Second, the inherent land rights of Aboriginal peoples cannot be ignored in the day-to-day operations of the government. Doing so is both discriminatory and contrary to the rule of law. Canadian courts have set out a mandatory constitutional duty to consult with Indigenous peoples with the goal of identifying and substantially accommodating their concerns, before any decisions are made that could affect these rights. For such consultation to be meaningful, Indigenous peoples’ knowledge and perspective must be part of the determination of whether or not a particular proposal could have a harmful impact on their rights and use of the land. Furthermore, the duty of consultation and accommodation, and the inter-related obligation for governments to deal honourably with Aboriginal peoples, cannot be met if there is a predetermination that projects will go ahead regardless of legitimate concerns raised by the affected communities. Accordingly, our organizations urge your government to retract statements indicating that the province is already committed to shale gas development, regardless of opposition.

via Open Letter concerning anti-fracking protests at the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq Nation.