Monday, March 23, 2020

Containing methane and its contribution to global warming

This is pure modelling with no reality contact at all.  That methane might produce different effects in our actual complex atmosphere is not considered. Methane in the laboratory is as close to reality as they get.  That other gases have similar absorption spectra as CH4 appears not to be taken into account


Methane is a gas that deserves more attention in the climate debate as it contributes to almost half of human-made global warming in the short-term. A new study shows that it is possible to significantly contribute to reduced global warming through the implementation of available technology that limits methane release to the atmosphere.

Methane is a gas that deserves more attention in the climate debate as it contributes to almost half of human-made global warming in the short-term. A new IIASA study shows that it is possible to significantly contribute to reduced global warming through the implementation of available technology that limits methane release to the atmosphere.

According to the study published in the journal Environmental Research Communications, it is possible to achieve reduced global warming in the near term by targeting methane through the fast implementation of technology to prevent its release to the atmosphere. This could mitigate some of the otherwise very costly impacts of climate change that are expected over the next few decades. To achieve the significant reductions in methane emissions caused by humans needed to meet the Paris Agreement, we however need to know exactly where and from what sources emissions are emitted so that policymakers can start developing strategies to contain methane and its contribution to global warming.

"To develop policy strategies to mitigate climate change through reductions of global non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions like methane, we need detailed inventories of the sources and locations of current human-made emissions, build scenarios for expected developments in future emissions, assess the abatement potential of future emissions, and estimate the costs of reducing emissions. In this study, we looked at global methane emissions and technical abatement potentials and costs in the 2050 timeframe," explains study lead author Lena Hoglund-Isaksson.

Using the IIASA Greenhouse Gases -- Air Pollution Interactions and Synergies (GAINS) model, the researchers endeavored to find out how well the GAINS bottom-up inventory of methane emissions at country and source-sector level between 1990-2015 match top-down estimates of the global concentration of methane measured in the atmosphere. In addition, they wanted to see how much methane would be emitted globally until 2050 if we take no further measures to reduce emissions.

The results show that at the global level, the GAINS methane inventory matches the top-down estimate of human-made methane emissions' contribution to the atmospheric concentration of methane quite well. A reasonable match between bottom-up and top-down budgets, both at the global and regional levels, is important for the confidence in bottom-up inventories, which are a prerequisite for policy strategies to be perceived as "certain enough" by stakeholders in climate mitigation.

The authors' analysis revealed a strong increase in emissions after 2010, which confirms top-down measurements of increases in the atmospheric methane concentration in recent years. According to this study, these are explained by increased methane emissions from shale gas production in North America, increased coal mining in countries outside of China, for instance, Indonesia and Australia, and increased generation of waste and wastewater from growing populations and economic development in Asia and Africa. In addition, the findings showed a small but steady increase in emissions from beef and dairy production in Latin America and Africa, highlighting how different the distribution of emission source sectors are across different world regions.

The findings further show that without measures to control methane emissions, there would be a global emission increase of about 30% until 2050. While it would technically be possible to remove about 38% of these emissions by implementing available abatement technology, it would still mean that a significant amount of methane would be released between 2020 and 2050, making it impossible for the world to stay below 1.5°C warming.

With that said, the researchers point out that technical abatement potentials can still be used to achieve considerable reductions in methane emissions in the near-term and at a comparably low cost. Between 30% and 50% of future global methane emissions can be removed at a cost below 50 €/t CO2eq. The use of fossil fuels will however also have to be phased-down to really make a difference. Technical abatement potentials are particularly limited in agriculture, which suggests that these emissions must be addressed through non-technical measures, such as behavioral changes to reduce milk and meat consumption, or institutional and socioeconomic reforms to address smallholder livestock herding as a means of risk management in Africa and South-East Asia.

"There is no one-size fits all solution for the whole world. In the Middle East and Africa, for instance, oil production is a major contributor to methane emissions with relatively extensive potentials for emission reductions at low cost. In Europe and Latin America, dairy and beef production are the main sources with relatively limited technical mitigation potentials, while in North America it is emissions from shale gas extraction that can significantly contain emissions at a low cost. Our study illustrates just how important it is to have a regional- and sector-specific approach to mitigation strategies," concludes Hoglund-Isaksson.


The myth of climate-change refugees

Climate change has become an excuse to abandon people living on the coast.

Much of the Welsh village of Fairbourne lies between just one and three meters above sea level. It was built on a salt marsh in the 19th century behind two metre-high sea walls to protect the settlement from the waves. Now climate change seems to threaten the village.

Local-authority planners say it would cost too much to extend the Victorian sea defences and the village must be abandoned – the homes will be dismantled and the land will be returned to the marsh. Headlines excitedly proclaim that, in three decades’ time, the inhabitants of Fairbourne will be ‘the UK’s first climate-change refugees’. Really?

Sea-level rise (SLR) is no doubt a problem. But the connection between sea levels and global warming or CO2 emissions is uncertain. There is good evidence that SLR is a phenomenon that long predates industrial society, and the notion of anthropogenic ‘acceleration’ is at best controversial. It is certainly not, as is so often claimed, a subject where there is a definitive scientific ‘consensus’. There is evidence to support both sides of this argument. And different approaches to measuring SLR, between tide gauges and satellites, produce different results, each confounded by many technical complexities. Tide-gauge records are sparse and inconsistent. The satellite era began only very recently in geological terms – in 1992. There is no clear picture and global estimates of SLR vary between 1mm and 3mm per year.

Overall, scientists expect sea levels to rise between three and nine centimetres between now and the mid-century. The consensus view provides a range of SLR between 28 and 82 centimetres by the end of the century, with worst-case scenarios projecting rises of as much as three metres. Moreover, this range of estimates, clouded by uncertainty, should be seen in the context of the science’s history, which has been drenched in alarmist prognostications.

Far from being a new phenomenon, rising tides, sinking lands, storms and erosion have claimed many of Britain’s coastal towns and villages through the centuries. And plenty of settlements along Britain’s coastline still stand at the literal and figurative cliff edge. The notion that sands don’t shift, that the natural landscape is immutable, and that houses stand forever may reflect the longings of the human psyche, but these are not facts about the natural world. And while salt marshes at the feet of mountains make for pretty locations, that does not make them safe. With or without man-made global warming, coastal settlements are at much greater risk than inland towns and villages – they always have been and always will be. Climate change increases that risk but by how much is hard to detect and to isolate from the risk that has existed throughout history.

One thing that has undoubtedly changed the risks for the inhabitants of Fairbourne is the policy decision to stop building coastal defences. This is framed in terms of climate policy – a framing which is totally helpful to the people of Fairbourne. The 460 homes in the sea’s way have lost half of their value following Gwynedd Council’s decision to ‘decommission’ the village. ‘I’ve lost £100,000 on this house’, said Bev to BBC filmmakers.

Coincidentally, £100,000 is approximately the cost that will fall on the average household as a consequence of the government’s ‘Net Zero’ agenda. And like Gwynedd Council’s incautious decision, this will create a constellation of unintended consequences, which rather than serving the public interest or protecting people is likely to do great harm.

For instance, according to the ‘wisdom’ of environmentalists, climate change is the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. One piece of evidence for this seems to be the threat posed by the rising seas for some small coastal communities. Yet the 460 homes in Fairbourne that lie in the path of the Irish Sea are less than the number of homes that are repossessed each month in England and Wales. The threats of illness, unemployment or substantial increases in the cost of living – often caused by ideologically blinkered policymakers – are a far more present and manifestly real threat to people living both inland and on the coasts than the angry waves could ever be.

None of which answers the question of what can be done for the people who live in places that are vulnerable to the sea. First, we cannot let any politicians or officials use climate change as an excuse or as cover for their rank incompetence and indifference to these communities. Second, given the costs that the government wishes to impose on the entire population in the name of fighting climate change, why can we not find the money to relocate people inland? If a suitable location were found for new houses, it would even be possible to keep communities intact. This will certainly be a lot cheaper than the trillions currently earmarked for a climate-change agenda that will produce net-zero benefit.

Climate campaigners have long sought climate victims. But this desire for puppets to act out a green morality play means that problems which require public debate are removed from their wider context, or are framed so as to preclude any solution. The people of Fairbourne have been swept up in journalists’ and politicians’ green hyperbole, and have been used to further an agenda that has done nothing for them and is indifferent to their plight.

Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the scientific consensus – offers a far more sober perspective than the media. It advises that ‘the use of the term “climate refugee” is scientifically and legally problematic’. Moreover, it adds that ‘current alarmist predictions of massive flows of so-called “environmental migrants” are not supported by past experiences of responses to droughts and extreme weather events, and predictions for future migration flows are tentative at best’.

It is safe to say that the views of scientists have been a huge disappointment to green campaigners, who have gone in search of stories about ‘climate refugees’ all the same.


Global warming does something useful

The motivation behind the technology below is dubious but the products could still be useful

On the CES floor in Las Vegas this past January, I saw dozens of companies showing off products designed to help us adapt to climate change. It was an unsettling reminder that we’ve tipped the balance on global warming and that hotter temperatures, wildfires, and floods are the new reality.

Based on our current carbon dioxide emissions, we can expect warming of up to 1.5 °C by 2033. Even if we stopped spewing carbon today, temperatures would continue to rise for a time, and weather would grow still more erratic.

The companies at CES recognize that it’s too late to stop climate change. Faced with that realization, this group of entrepreneurs is focusing on climate adaptation. For them, the goal is to make sure that people and the global economy will still survive across as much of the world as possible. These entrepreneurs’ companies are developing practicalities, such as garments that adapt to the weather or new building materials with higher melting points so that roads won’t crack in extreme temperatures.

One of the biggest risks in a warming world is that both outdoor workers and their equipment will overheat more often. Scientists expect to see humans migrate from parts of the world where temperatures and humidity combine to repeatedly create heat indexes of 40.6 °C, because beyond that temperature humans have a hard time surviving [PDF]. But even in more temperate locations, the growing number of hotter days will also make it tough for outdoor workers.

Embr Labs is building a bracelet that the company says can lower a person’s perceived temperature a few degrees simply by changing the temperature on their wrist. The bracelet doesn’t change actual body temperature, so it can’t help outdoor workers avoid risk on a sweltering day. But it could still be used to keep workers cooler on safe yet still uncomfortably warm days. It might also allow companies to raise their indoor temperatures, saving on air-conditioning costs.

Elsewhere, Epicore Biosystems is building wearable microfluidic sensors that monitor people for dehydration or high body temperatures. The Epicore sensors are already being used for athletes. But it’s not hard to imagine that in the near future there’d be a market for putting them on construction, farm, and warehouse workers who have to perform outside jobs in hot weather.

Extreme temperatures—and extreme fluctuations between temperatures—are also terrible for our existing road and rail infrastructure. Companies such as RailPod, as well as universities, are building AI-powered drones and robots that can monitor miles of roadway or track and send back data on repairs.

And then there’s flooding. Coastal roads and roads near rivers will need to withstand king tides, flash floods, and sustained floodwaters. Pavement engineers are working on porous concrete to mitigate flood damage and on embedded sensors to communicate a road’s status in real time to transportation officials.

There are so many uncertainties about our warming planet, but what isn’t in doubt is that climate change will damage our infrastructure and disrupt our patterns of work. Plenty of companies are focused on the admirable goal of preventing further warming, but we need to also pay attention to the companies that can help us adapt. A warmer planet is already here.


Thawing Permafrost Is Unlikely To Increase Global Warming, Scientists Find

As Earth continues to warm, scientists were wary about the impact melting permafrost would have in furthering greenhouse gas warming. Recent research suggests that melting permafrost may not have a significant impact on increasing temperatures.

The primary concern was associated with methane gas release into the atmosphere, which is a much more potent heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide.

The research study focused on two types of permafrost, frozen soil and frozen methane hydrates in the soil underneath the world’s oceans.

Permafrost on land is predominantly found in Siberia, Alaska, and Northern Canada. As plants, algae and animals die in these regions significant amounts of the carbon are not decomposed but buried in frozen soil. This “locks away” this organic matter from the global carbon cycle.

As temperatures warm the soil begins to melt, introducing liquid water and oxygen to the organic matter and thus allowing bacteria to break it down and potentially release methane into the atmosphere.

Methane hydrates, the other main concern for permafrost melting, are a combination of water ice and methane trapped in frozen ocean sediment below the ocean floor. Similar to permafrost on land, as oceans begin to warm these hydrates will begin to melt and release both water and methane.

In both scenarios, the concern is that a warming planet will cause a sudden release of significant amounts of methane into the atmosphere, thus causing positive feedback and warming the planet more.

Recent research, published in the journal Science, looked at small trapped gas bubbles in ice cores to see what the atmosphere looked like on Earth for the past 15,000 years.

By analyzing the gas bubbles, which were sequentially trapped through time and represent past atmospheric conditions, the team believes methane release from permafrost did not play a significant role in warming during past warming events.

The scenario they used was from the last glacial period to modern times, analyzing how permafrost played an impact on a warming planet.

The team found that signatures of methane gas were small during these past warming periods and that methane release from permafrost likely did not cause a large warming event.

In the case of land permafrost, in most scenarios the bacteria decomposed the organic matter through organic respiration, releasing carbon dioxide as opposed to methane. While the carbon dioxide released does add to warming, as we stated earlier, each molecule of CO2 is less potent than a molecule of methane (CH4).

When looking at methane hydrates in the ocean sediment, the team found that a significant amount of the methane released never makes it to the ocean surface. It simply dissolves into the ocean water as trapped gas or is oxidized by microbes in the ocean.


America shows the way

It achieves Greenie goals through the effects of capitalism, not anti-capitalism

The last year has been tough for climate activists around the world. The United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement, protests by Extinction Rebellion generated publicity but not much else, and the United Nations Climate Change Conference ended in failure. This helps explain why the bombshell report by the International Energy Agency which found carbon dioxide emissions related to energy did not increase last year was a much needed morale boost for those people intent on halting global warming.

However, this is not a rallying cry for the environmentalists to redouble their efforts. A closer look at the numbers shows that the conventional approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which relies on heavy regulation and government direction, is a dead end. But there is still hope. The International Energy Agency data identifies proven and successful models that any country can adopt to reduce emissions and slow global warming. They just are not in vogue right now. Globally, the amount of emissions stayed at the 2018 levels, but this was not a team effort. The European Union led the way cutting 160 million tons of carbon dioxide, then the United States at 140 million tons, and Japan at 45 million tons. That had been just enough to offset “the rest of the world” combined.

Since the European Union made the greatest cuts, it is tempting to think that other countries must adopt its regulatory heavy approach that most climate activists favor, however, this would be a mistake. Unfortunately, that model is nearing its limits, and even Europeans are starting to push back. The European Union announced with great fanfare that it planned to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, or rather, every country except Poland, which abstained from the deal. Despite this refusal, Poland is still set to receive more than a quarter of the 100 billion euro fund with which the European Union will grease the skids toward a lower emitting economy.

Although paying off uncompliant countries may work for the European Union, it simply could not work as a solution for the world. According to International Monetary Fund data, there are more than 130 countries with lower gross domestic product per capita than Poland, and among them are nine of the 10 most populous countries in the world. If Poland needs help to buy expensive and unreliable renewable energy, then those other countries will too. Does anyone really think that the United States and the European Union could subsidize all of them into true carbon neutrality?

By striking contrast, Japan cut 4 percent of its greenhouse gasses largely after it started back into operation its nuclear energy industry, which had been severely curtailed after the Fukushima disaster in 2011. This is good for Japan as well as for the environment, as overreactions to the reactor accident, such as unnecessary evacuations and policies that drove up the cost of energy, almost certainly killed more people than the radiation did.

Countries such as Germany that followed Japan in shuttering their nuclear industries had to switch back to coal to maintain the reliable power grids. Even now, the European Union climate fund will not pay for nuclear power despite its safe use across France. Despite its earlier mistakes, Japan has bowed to the basic reality that any realistic carbon neutral society needs lots of reliable energy, which only nuclear fission can supply enough of.

Despite ambivalence on nuclear power and an uncoordinated approach to reducing emissions, the United States capped off an extraordinary stretch of two decades in which it reduced emissions by almost one billion tons, more than any other country. Last year, the United States nearly matched the European Union emissions reductions without an overarching strategy for greenhouse gasses, while still growing its economy at nearly double the rate of the eurozone. This is largely due to private sector success like natural gas getting cheap enough and widely available to supplant coal.

Developing countries can learn from American and Japanese success to grow their economies with environmentally friendly methods. The climate change movement has no hope of succeeding without finding a way to make this happen moving forward. There are more than six billion people in countries that the International Monetary Fund classifies as “emerging market and developing economies.” These people want and need access to safe reliable food, water, clothing, housing, medicine, and sanitation that development brings, not to mention other advances that a modern society offers. While the approach of the European Union might work for it, developing countries that need to dramatically raise their standards of living would be better off studying how the United States cuts emissions without sacrificing growth and how pragmatism in Japan works as well.

Next time Greta Thunberg criticizes the United States, American officials should not respond defensively as they have before. Instead, they should invite her over to show her how the United States is getting her what she wants. Just be sure to send her along something to read on the boat ride



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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