Of the secret leaks and the baking planet


Due to its structure, methane retains more heat in the atmosphere per molecule than carbon dioxide (CO2), making it 80 times more harmful than CO2 over the 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere. Credit: Bigstock
  • by Baher Kamal (Madrid)
  • Inter Press Service

One of them, released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), warns that the current, unprecedented heat waves hitting the planet will be more severe, frequent, intense and will last longer in the coming decades.

The other scientific study, launched by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), focuses on the dangers of what it calls “secret methane leaks.” Methane is a colorless, odorless gas that is responsible for more than 25% of the global warming the Earth is experiencing today.

Because both issues are so closely linked and relevant to the present and the near future of life on Earth, here are some of their related key findings.

The “Secret Leaks”

The methane leaks are an open secret in the oil and gas industry and fuel the climate crisis, UNEP explains. In its report it provides the following information and explanations.

Massive methane leaks, known as super-emitter events, have occurred in oil and gas fields around the world, from the United States to Turkmenistan.

The releases, most of which can be traced to equipment failures, can take weeks.

An outside storage facility in Los Angeles in 2015 bled nearly 100,000 tons of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — into the atmosphere over the course of four months.

In June of this year, researchers at the Spanish Polytechnic University of Valencia said they had discovered the last known superemitter event at an oil and gas rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

The plant discharged 40,000 tons of methane over a 17-day period in December 2021, equivalent to 3% of Mexico’s total annual oil and gas emissions.

While the spill was captured, it remains a challenge to track emissions of methane, which is colorless and odorless and is responsible for more than 25 percent of the global warming experienced by the planet today, UNEP explains.

80 times more harmful

The UNEP study also warns that due to its structure, methane traps more heat in the atmosphere per molecule than carbon dioxide (CO2), making it 80 times more harmful than CO2 over the 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere.

As countries develop plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent the worst effects of climate change, experts say it is vital to better control the amount of methane released into the atmosphere, including through superemitter events.

Reducing man-made methane by 45 percent this decade would keep warming below a threshold set in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Who are the “super radiators”?

To track and measure methane emissions, the United Nations Environment Program launched the International Methane Emissions Observatory in October 2021. It catalogs discharges from the fossil fuel sector, and soon also wastes and agricultural discharges.

“The oil and gas industry are major producers of methane and emit the gas during drilling, production and other parts of their operations. For safety reasons, methane is also sometimes intentionally released from oil and gas installations.”

The agricultural sector is also “a major emitter of methane”, particularly from livestock and the cultivation of certain foodstuffs, such as rice.

“Waste is the third most common man-made source of methane, as bacteria break down organic matter in landfills.”

The planet is baking

A major consequence of the unwanted controlled methane leaks, among too many other simply for-profit activities, is the ongoing climate emergency.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) also launched further scientific findings on this in July: heat waves will be more intense, last longer and will become more frequent… over the next few decades, into the 2060s.

The UN specialized agency had previously warned of record high temperatures in India and Pakistan, as high as 50 degrees Celsius.

Not to mention the more than four long severe droughts that hit all of eastern Africa, and the record high temperature recorded in so many other regions of the world.

The findings include the United Kingdom, which has just issued “the first-ever red warning of excessive heat” at 40 degrees Celsius.

In other European countries, such as Portugal and Spain, the temperature has risen to about 46 degrees Celsius.

Air quality degradation

It’s worth pointing out that high temperatures aren’t the only adverse effect of heat waves, says Lorenzo Labrador, a research associate at WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch Program.

“The stable and stagnant atmosphere acts as a lid to trap air pollutants, including particulate matter, increasing their concentrations closer to the surface.”

Likewise, the abundant sunshine, high concentrations of certain air pollutants, and stable atmosphere promote periods of near-surface ozone formation, which adversely affects humans and plants.

“We have reached an all-time high in the UK,” said Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the WMO on July 19.

The new normal?

“In the future, this kind of heat wave will be normal. We will see stronger extremes. We have pumped so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that the negative trend will continue for decades to come. We have failed to reduce our emissions worldwide,” the WMO chief warned.

“The negative trend in climate will continue at least until 2060, independent of our success in climate mitigation.”

Harvesting in danger

The unnecessarily addressed climate emergency also has implications for the present and future of food.

In fact, “we expect major consequences for agriculture. During the previous heat waves in Europe, we lost large parts of the harvest. And in the current situation, this heat wave will have a further negative impact on agricultural activities,” warned Petteri Taalas.

Temperatures, higher in Europe than elsewhere

According to the UN Body for the Assessment of Climate Change Science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), temperatures in European areas will rise faster than elsewhere.

In the Mediterranean, a worrying combination of climatic changes (warming; extreme temperatures; increase in drought and drought; decrease in precipitation; increase in forest fires; mean and extreme sea levels; decrease in snow cover and decrease in wind speed) is expected by the mid-century as global warming increases. earth exceeds 2°C.

Respiratory, cardiovascular disease

Health systems are also being challenged by heat waves.

“When a heat wave is accompanied by high levels of pollution, it exacerbates respiratory, cardiovascular and disease conditions, especially in large urban spaces that are not adapted to these high temperatures,” said Maria Neira, Director of Environment and Health at the World Health Organisation. (WHO).

“Reliable access to food and water is at stake, as is agricultural production,” and there will certainly be water scarcity.”

“99% of the world’s population breathes air that does not meet health standards set by the WHO, which has a huge impact on chronic respiratory and cardiovascular disease.”

Climate chaos

Chris Greenberg of Greenpeace International is clear: global heat waves are a fossil fuel-driven climate chaos.

“Unprecedented danger will become the new normal if we don’t take urgent action to halt fossil fuel-driven climate change.”

From Canada and the United States to Russia and even the Arctic, Greenberg adds, record-breaking heat waves are putting lives, livelihoods and communities at risk, Greenberg says.

“…The entire global community must demand that fossil fuel companies and corporate polluters stop accelerating climate change with reckless, profit-seeking drilling and burning of coal, oil and gas.”

Aside from the current dangerous climate crisis, greed and money making have pushed humanity to its collapse.

© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here