research

Wed, 2014-04-16 13:09Sharon Kelly
Sharon Kelly's picture

Study Finds Methane Leaks 1,000 Times EPA Estimates During Marcellus Drilling

This week, a United Nations panel on climate change issued one of its most urgent warnings to date, explaining that unless major changes to greenhouse gas emissions are made within the next few years, it will become extraordinarily difficult to ward off the worst impacts of climate change.

We cannot afford to lose another decade,” Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chairman of the committee, told The New York Times

With the time to cut emissions running out, the Obama administration has seized upon the hope that greenhouse gasses can be cut dramatically by switching from coal to natural gas, because gas gives off half as much carbon dioxide as coal when it’s burned. Indeed, when the EPA published its annual greenhouse gas inventory this Tuesday, it credited a switch from coal to natural gas with helping to cut carbon emissions nationwide.

But a new scientific paper, also published Tuesday in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, further upends the notion that the current shale gas drilling rush is truly helping the U.S. cut its total greenhouse gas emissions.

In fact, the evidence suggests, the Obama administration has understated the full climate impacts of natural gas, focusing too much on only carbon dioxide and failing to take into account another key greenhouse gas: methane.

The paper, the first to directly measure methane plumes above natural gas drilling sites in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale, recorded methane leaks far more powerful than EPA estimates. Methane is especially important because its global warming effects are at their strongest during the first 20 years after it enters the atmosphere — in other words, during the small window of time identified as crucial by the U.N.’s climate panel.

Fri, 2014-02-14 12:40Sharon Kelly
Sharon Kelly's picture

New Study Shows Total North American Methane Leaks Far Worse than EPA Estimates

Just how bad is natural gas for the climate?

A lot worse than previously thought, new research on methane leaks concludes.

Far more natural gas is leaking into the atmosphere nationwide than the Environmental Protection Agency currently estimates, researchers concluded after reviewing more than 200 different studies of natural gas leaks across North America.

The ground-breaking study, published today in the prestigious journal Science, reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has understated how much methane leaks into the atmosphere nationwide by between 25 and 75 percent — meaning that the fuel is far more dangerous for the climate than the Obama administration asserts.

The study, titled “Methane Leakage from North American Natural Gas Systems,” was conducted by a team of 16 researchers from institutions including Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and is making headlines because it finally and definitively shows that natural gas production and development can make natural gas worse than other fossil fuels for the climate.

The research, which was reported in The Washington Post, Bloomberg and The New York Times, was funded by a foundation created by the late George P. Mitchell, the wildcatter who first successfully drilled shale gas, so it would be hard to dismiss it as the work of environmentalists hell-bent on discrediting the oil and gas industry.

Wed, 2013-09-04 05:00Farron Cousins
Farron Cousins's picture

With Congress Back to Work, Republican Attacks On EPA Resume

Fresh off the August recess, the United States Congress got back to business today.  Rather than focusing on pressing issues like a potential war, looming budget deadlines, and the growing problem of student loan debt, some Republican lawmakers thought it was the perfect time to pick up where they left off before their recess – attacking the Environmental Protection Agency.

Texas Republican Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, is enraged that the EPA is not “complying” with a subpoena that his committee issued, requiring the agency to hand over all documents and studies relating to standards issued by the EPA

According to Smith, this information is vital for the public, as the safety standards that it spurs cost the public “trillions of dollars,” he wrote in a letter to the EPA.  Smith never specifies how he came up with that figure, and research shows that regulations put in place by the EPA actually save taxpayers much more money than they cost.  Smith’s letter has given the agency until September 16th to hand over the documents.

Fri, 2013-01-25 05:00Carol Linnitt
Carol Linnitt's picture

Canadian Scientists Must Speak Out Despite Consequence, Says Andrew Weaver

If people don’t speak out there will never be any change,” says the University of Victoria’s award-winning climate scientist Andrew Weaver. 

And the need for change in Canada, says Weaver, has never been more pressing.

“We have a crisis in Canada. That crisis is in terms of the development of information and the need for science to inform decision-making. We have replaced that with an ideological approach to decision-making, the selective use of whatever can be found to justify [policy decisions], and the suppression of scientific voices and science itself in terms of informing the development of that policy.”
 
Mon, 2013-01-21 08:54Carol Linnitt
Carol Linnitt's picture

Retreat from Science: Interview with Federal Scientist Peter Ross Part 2 of 2

On April 1, 2013 Canada will lose its sole marine contaminants research program. The loss comes as a part of a massive dismantling of science programs at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced in May of 2012. 

Peter Ross, lead researcher at Vancouver Island’s Institute for Ocean Sciences, is a recent casualty of the sweeping science cuts moving across the country.
 
In this second installment of DeSmog Canada’s interview with Ross, he discusses the importance of the scientific method as a bulwark against bias in policy-making, the danger of industrial pollutants in marine habitats, and what killer whales can tell us about our society.
Sat, 2012-09-15 06:00Ben Jervey
Ben Jervey's picture

No Breakthroughs Necessary: 95 Percent Renewable Energy Possible By 2050

Shutterstock | James Steidl

It’s a commonly held belief, even within the climate action advocacy community, that significant technological breakthroughs are necessary to harness enough clean, renewable energy to power our global energy demands.

Not so, says a new study published this month, which makes an ambitious case for “sustainable sources” providing 95 percent of global energy demand by mid-century.

This new analysis, “Transition to a fully sustainable global energy system,” published in Energy Strategy Reviews, examines demand scenarios for the major energy use sectors – industry, buildings, and transport – and matches them up to feasible renewable supply sources.

Over on VICE’s Motherboard, Brian Merchant dug into the study and put it into proper context.

It is entirely possible, using technologies largely available today, to power nearly the entire world with clean energy—but we need to conjure the will to make revolutionary strides in public policy and the scale of deployment.

Fri, 2012-06-08 12:25Farron Cousins
Farron Cousins's picture

Is BP's Attempted Climategate Strategy To Attack Scientists Ethical?

In late 2009, climate change deniers thought they had found the Holy Grail in terms of climate denial – a collection of more than 3,000 hacked emails that they took out of context to “prove” that scientists were lying about human-driven climate change. This so-called scandal became known as “Climategate.” And even though the full context of the emails revealed that the scientists involved undoubtedly agreed that climate change was real and that the science proved so, climate deniers today still use those false, cherry-picked emails to sell their conspiracy theory to the American public. Reputations were destroyed, the truth was kept hidden, and the public was left confused and annoyed as a result of the entire fiasco.

With Climategate still weighing heavily on the minds of climate scientists and the entire scientific community, it's no surprise that these professionals would want their private communications to remain exactly that, for fear that anything they’ve said could be taken grossly out of context, or completely re-worded to fit a biased agenda. If information is pertinent and relevant to public discourse, they have been more than happy to oblige requests, but anything beyond that is clearly a violation of their privacy.

So why then is BP trying to obtain every piece of email correspondence from scientists who researched the Gulf of Mexico oil geyser?

That’s a question that numerous scientists have tried to figure out in recent weeks. The oil giant has subpoenaed emails from scientists who studied the oil and its impact on coastal and marine environments to use in the numerous civil and federal lawsuits against the company.

What makes this a problem is that scientists have already turned over the relevant data to the company and the federal government, but BP wants access to the private correspondence between the scientists as well, hoping for another “Climategate”-type email chain that can be used to discredit the scientists.

Sun, 2009-03-08 19:03Jeremy Jacquot
Jeremy Jacquot's picture

Earth to Jacoby: I Got Your Global Warming Right Here

Not to let himself be outdone by his skeptic colleague in good standing, George Will, The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby has penned an equally vacuous and misinformed column posing the thought-provoking question: “Where’s global warming?”

It’s hard to know where to start. From the outset, I was tempted to just rehash my previous post about “global cooling” and climate variability or to mine Mitchell’s George Will debunking posts for some good material. (This line, in particular, answers his question rather well: “In other words: if you want to see climate change, look out the window.”) In light of some of his other claims about global temperatures and Arctic sea ice, however, I thought I’d do some of my own snooping.

Thu, 2009-03-05 12:24Jeremy Jacquot
Jeremy Jacquot's picture

Hot or Not? Making Sense of Climate Variability

To say that climate know-nothings like to pick and choose when it comes to interpreting the science is something of an understatement.

Prominent” – and I use the term loosely here – deniers like Dennis Avery, S. Fred Singer and Michael Asher have made a cottage industry of playing loose with the numbers and extrapolating short-term trends to make sweeping statements about global warming (see: one unusually cold month means global warming is over).

Which is why I have a feeling this study (sub. required), entitled “Has the climate recently shifted?” (which will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters), will catch many a denier’s eye. The main takeaway from this study is that there is a significant degree of variability in our climate system, and that, even though we may be entering a period of warming “stasis,” long-term trends still point to significant warming due to anthropogenic forcing.

Sun, 2008-11-23 09:39Jeremy Jacquot
Jeremy Jacquot's picture

Climate Change: It's Worse than You Think

Even if you aren’t a dyed in the wool environmentalist, it’s hard not to feel at least somewhat giddy at the prospects of what an Obama presidency could do for climate change.

During the electoral campaign, Obama repeatedly said that he would consider climate change and energy two of his administration’s top priorities. When pressed on the urgency of the economic crisis and the yawning federal deficit, he refused to buckle – arguing that the climate crisis was too critical an issue to kick down the road again.

In the wake of his memorable speech at the Global Climate Summit, only a hardened cynic would dismiss his climate advocacy as an opportunistic campaign ploy.

And, with the recent elevation of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) to the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (replacing long-serving Rep. John Dingell, the notoriously pro-Detroit, regulation-leery Democrat), there’s reason to believe President-elect Obama’s first term could see significant progress on this front.

Subscribe to research