Gas Leaks from Fracking Accelerate Global Warming

UPDATE Jan 2013:

Yet another study reveals fracking has a huge problem of gas leaks. Up to  9% of the gas pumped out of the ground leaks into the atmosphere according to a study by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published in Nature  Jan 3, 2013. Natural gas (methane) is a powerful greenhouse gas. If these leaks are widespread, fracking is worse than burning coal accelerating global warming.

In Jan 2012 I detailed new research showing that replacing coal with natural gas from fracking does little to fight climate change (see below). Two studies published in the months after that made an even stronger case that fracking for natural gas is very likely a HUGE MISTAKE:

From Nature: Air sampling reveals high emissions from gas field. Methane leaks during production may offset climate benefits of natural gas.

From Environmental Research Letters: New study demonstrates switching to natural gas is the path to climate disaster. What’s needed is an aggressive deployment of zero-carbon technologies and conservation. 

— Stephen

 

Shale Gas Worse Than Coal Study Finds

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 24, 2012 (IPS)

Hundreds of thousands of shale gas wells are being “fracked” in the United States and Canada, allowing large amounts of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, to escape into the atmosphere, new studies have shown.

Shale gas production results in 40 to 60 percent more global warming emissions than conventional gas, said Robert Howarth of Cornell University in New York State.

“Shale gas also has a larger greenhouse gas footprint than oil or coal over the short term,” said Howarth, co-author of a study called “Venting and Leaking of Methane from Shale Gas Development” to be published in the journal Climatic Change.

Continue reading

Superstorm Sandy Didn’t Play Politics but Helped to Re-elect President Obama

Hurricane Sandy Speaks:

“I am aware that my arrival last week helped re-elect President Obama.

Superstorms like me don’t play politics but it should be clear by now that your refusal to tackle global warming has serious consequences. Higher sea levels and amped-up hurricanes like me are just two of them. There is an awful price to pay for burning coal, oil, and natural gas I’m sorry to say.

Putting hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere is trapping more of the sun’s heat energy. CO2 is the planet’s natural heating blanket but those extra hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 has made that blanket thicker. And it is getting thicker every year.

Nearly 200 people were killed in the 10 days I traveled from Jamaica to Canada. Most of the deaths were American. The US remains by far the largest emitter of CO2. With a fraction of the world population, the US is responsible for nearly 30 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions from 1860 to 2009. On a person by person basis, Americans have one of the biggest CO2 ‘footprints’.”

Read full post at Hurricane Sandy Speaks 

Hurricane Sandy a Taste of More Extreme Weather to Come

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Nov 2 2012 (IPS)

Killing nearly 200 people in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean and crippling much of New York City and surrounding areas earlier this week, Hurricane Sandy was the kind of extreme weather event scientists have long predicted will occur with global warming.

“Climate change is a reality,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after Sandy swept through his state.

Sandy was twice the size of an average hurricane, and it hit the eastern coast of the United States, where sea levels have been rising the fastest, said Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Researchin Boulder, Colorado.

“All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be,” Trenberth, an expert on extreme events, told IPS.

Whether climate change caused Hurricane Sandy is the wrong question to ask, added Trenberth. He explained that climate change helped make Hurricane Sandy more destructive than it otherwise would have been.

“This is the new normal,” Trenberth said. “It doesn’t make sense to rebuild in some regions – they’ll just be swept away again.”

Superstorm Sandy Was Really an “Anthrostorm”

Hurricane Sandy Speaks:

Image

Earlier I called myself a hybrid storm: part nature, part human. That’s not quite right. Humans and Hurricanes are part of nature. We both thrive on this planet thanks to sunlight, water and carbon dioxide (CO2). Hurricanes and tropical storms have been around for millions of years. In the last 50 years things have changed. The oceans are warmer. This week the waters off the US east coast were 3 degrees C warmer than normal.

Read full post at Hurricane Sandy Speaks 

Plankton Death To Come with Acid Oceans and Sunlight

A number of marine diatom cells (Pleurosigma), which are an important group of phytoplankton in the oceans.
Credit: Michael Stringer

Global Warming has made oceans 30% more acidic already

“It’s clear we are conducting a giant experiment on the planet and we don’t know what we are doing.”

[This is a repost from my May 8 2012 article – see here for more on acid ocean impacts — Stephen]

 By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 8, 2012 (IPS)

Without major reductions in the use of fossil fuels, sunlight will kill an unknown number of ocean phytoplankton, the planet’s most important organism, a new study reports this week.

Not only are phytoplankton, also known as marine algae, a vital component in the ocean’s food chain, they generate at least half of the oxygen we breathe.

In the not so distant future, sunlight, the very source of life for phytoplankton, will likely begin to kill them because of the ocean’s increasing acidity, researchers from China and Germany have learned.

“There’s a synergistic effect between increased ocean acidity and natural light,” says Ulf Riebesell of the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany.

Riebesell added that it was also possible “phytoplankton could adapt”.

Researchers were surprised to discover that diatoms, one of the most important and abundant types of phytoplankton, fared very badly during shipboard experiments conducted by co-author Kunshan Gao, from the State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science at Xiamen University, Xiamen China.

Previous experiments in labs like Riebesell’s found that diatoms actually did better in high-acid seawater, unlike most other shell- forming plankton. Burning fossil fuels has made the oceans about 30 percent more acidic researchers discovered less than 10 years ago. Oceans absorb one third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from using fossil fuels.

The good news is this has slowed the rate of global warming. The bad news is oceans are now more acidic and it will get worse as more CO2 is emitted. This is basic, well-understood ocean chemistry.  Continue reading

Sandy says: “Childhood is Over: We’re All in this Together”

As the last of my winds and rains ebb I wish you a complete and climate-wise recovery. Our planet is not as it once was. You have seen some of the changes in your lifetime: the superstorms, floods, drought, heat waves, and the melting of the Arctic.

Other changes are invisible such as the 30 percent increase in the acidity of the oceans. This rising acidity is harming coral reefs, fish and many other inhabitants of the oceans. One third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from burning fossil fuels has been absorbed by the oceans. When CO2 dissolves in seawater it makes them more acidic.

All of these changes and far more with only 0.8C (1F) rise in global temperature. You want to believe all of this is natural. It is true I am part of nature but I have felt and fed off the extra heat energy in the oceans and additional moisture in the air you have unintentionally put there. The air, oceans, landscape have changed. Some call this time of major human impacts on the planet “The Anthropocene”. A big word to describe a big change: the era when humanity is influencing every aspect of life on the planet.

Read full post at Hurricane Sandy Speaks (crosspost)

Drought and New Deserts by 2060: Most of Mexico, Central America and half of US

Projected drought and dry regions in 2060-2069

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 22, 2012 (Tierramérica)

Mexico and Central America look like they are covered in dried blood on maps projecting future soil moisture conditions.

The results from 19 different state-of-the-art climate models project extreme and persistent drought conditions (colored dark red-brown on the maps) for almost all of Mexico, the midwestern United States and most of Central America.

If climate change pushes the global average temperature to 2.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial era levels, as many experts now expect, these regions will be under severe and permanent drought conditions.

Future conditions are projected to be worse than Mexico’s current drought or the U.S. Dust Bowl era of the 1930s that forced hundreds of thousands of people to migrate.

These are some of the conclusions of the study “Projections of Future Drought in the Continental United States and Mexico”, which was published in the December 2011 issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Hydrometeorology and has gone largely unnoticed.

“Drought conditions will prevail no matter what precipitation rates are in the future,” said co-author Michael Wehner, a climate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a U.S. government research centre in California.

“Even in regions where rainfall increases, the soils will get drier. This is a very robust finding,” Wehner told Tierramérica.

Without major reductions in carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, global temperatures will increase to at least 2.5 degrees of warming between 2050 and 2090, depending on rates of emissions of greenhouse gases, climate sensitivity and feedbacks. Continue reading

From Sandy: ‘Saddened by Damages; Surprised You are Shocked’

I am saddened by the damage and loss of life but am truly surprised you are so shocked by the extent and severity.

Haven’t you noticed hurricanes, cyclones and other storms have become more powerful in recent years?  And that extreme weather events like record flooding, droughts and heat waves are happening more frequently? In 2012 extreme weather records were broken all over the US. In 2011 there were 14 separate billion-dollar-plus weather disasters in the US including flooding, hurricanes and tornados.

Read full post at Hurricane Sandy Speaks (crosspost)

Extreme weather new normal with Climate Change

Climate change plays a role in all extreme weather now – atmosphere is 0.8C hotter and 4-6% wetter – turns out small increases can have big impacts. — Stephen

Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist

By Stephen Leahy

CAIRNS, Australia, Apr 3, 2012 (Tierramérica)

Extreme weather is fast becoming the new normal. Canada and much of the United States experienced summer temperatures during winter this year, confirming the findings of a new report on extreme weather.

For two weeks this March most of North America baked under extraordinarily warm temperatures that melted all the snow and ice and broke 150-year-old temperature records by large margins.

Last year the U.S. endured 14 separate billion-dollar-plus weather disasters including flooding, hurricanes and tornados.

A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released Mar. 28, provides solid evidence that record-breaking weather events are increasing in number and becoming more extreme. And if current rates of greenhouse gas emissions are maintained, these events will reach dangerous new levels over the coming century.

Since 1950 there have been many more heat waves and record warm temperatures than in…

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Ocean Acidification Leaves Mollusks Naked and Confused

Chilean intertidal carnivorous crab (Acanthocyclus hassleri)

Climate change is making oceans warmer and more acidic…expect the worst

By Stephen Leahy

When the carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans dissolves in seawater, carbonic acid is formed and calcium carbonate, vital for the formation of the skeletons and shells of many marine organisms, becomes scarcer.

MONTEREY, California, Oct 2 2012 (IPS)

Climate change will ruin Chilean sea snails’ ability to sniff out and avoid their archenemy, a predatory crab, according to Chilean scientists who presented their findings at an international science symposium here.

Researchers from Australia also revealed that as the oceans become more and more acidic, some fish become hyperactive and confused, and move towards their predators instead of trying to escape.

“The conditions in oceans are changing 100 times faster than at any time in the past,” said Jean-Pierre Gattuso, a marine biologist with CNRS-INSU and the Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche in France.

Climate change is making oceans warmer and more acidic. “We are beginning to understand what will happen. I think we can expect the worst,” Gattuso told Tierramérica*.

Gattuso is one of nearly 600 scientists from around the world who presented their research on Sep. 24-27 at the Third International Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World: Ocean Acidification in Monterey, California.

Researchers discovered only 10 years ago that burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas has made the oceans about 30 percent more acidic since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Continue reading