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

Warming fuels rise in methane threat – Climate News Network

LONDON, 6 January, 2016 – There is fresh concern among scientists over the rises they are detecting in one of the chief greenhouse gases, methane. A team of researchers from universities in Sweden and the US says methane is increasing in the atmosphere fast enough for emissions of the gas possibly to rise by between 20% and 50% before the end of the century. Over a century, methane is 25 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, the main gas contributing to global warming. But over a 20-year period, methane is 84 times more potent than CO2. Many methane sources are poorly understood, including lakes at high northern latitudes. But the researchers hope this may change. Water bodies A study in Nature Geoscience describes how compiling previously reported measurements made at 733 northern water bodies − from small ponds formed by beavers to large lakes formed by permafrost thaw or ice-sheets – has enabled researchers to estimate emissions over large scales more accurately. “The release of methane from northern lakes and ponds needs to be taken seriously,” says study leader Martin Wik, a PhD student at the Department of Geological Sciences and Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University. “These waters are significant, contemporary sources because they cover large parts of the landscape. They are also likely to emit even more methane in the future.” “Efforts to reduce human-induced warming are even more urgent in order to minimise this type of feedback of natural greenhouse gas emissions” Average temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as they are anywhere else in the world. At high northern latitudes, this warming means longer ice-free seasons. Together with permafrost thaw, this is likely to fuel methane release from lakes, potentially causing emissions to increase by between a fifth and a half by 2100. Change on this scale would probably generate a positive feedback in future warming, causing emissions to increase still further.  “This means that efforts to reduce human-induced warming are even more urgent in order to minimise this type of feedback of natural greenhouse gas emissions,” says a co-author of the study, David Bastviken, senior lecturer in environmental change at Linköping University. Sweden. “In a sense, every reduction in emissions from fossil fuels is a double victory.”

Faster than expected Two reports published last month raised concerns that methane emissions could be increasing faster than expected.

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Source: Warming fuels rise in methane threat – Climate News NetworkClimate News Network

Global warming will be faster than expected — ScienceDaily

Global warming will progress faster than what was previously believed. The reason is that greenhouse gas emissions that arise naturally are also affected by increased temperatures. This has been confirmed in a new study that measures natural methane emissions. Share:  2188  0  61  45 Total shares:  4588 FULL STORY Greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels lead to higher temperatures, which in turn lead to increased natural emissions and further warming. – Linköping University

Source: Global warming will be faster than expected — ScienceDaily