Natural gas is not a clean option

The 29 May episode of the Science Show on Radio National features Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University.

“Natural gas has been touted as a clean transition fuel as we move away from coal towards renewables to produce electricity. A major component of natural gas is methane. It has been long known that methane in the atmosphere traps more heat than carbon dioxide. But as Peter Newman reveals, recent research shows methane to be even worse than previously thought. It is now known methane traps heat 120 times more than carbon dioxide does, which is the cause of our present problem of a heating planet. And when methane is mined, moved and burnt, gas escapes.”

The 6-minute program can be heard here.

Presenter of Science Show
Robyn Williams

David Fisher

2021 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) global methane assessment

Key points from the assessment

  • Methane, a short-lived climate pollutant (SLCP) with an atmospheric lifetime of roughly a decade, is a potent greenhouse gas tens of times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere. Methane’s atmospheric concentration has more than doubled since pre-industrial times and is second only to carbon dioxide in driving climate change during the industrial era. (Section 1.1)
  • Methane contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone, a dangerous air pollutant. Ozone attributable to anthropogenic methane emissions causes approximately half a million premature deaths per year globally and harms ecosystems and crops by suppressing growth and diminishing production. (Section 1.1 and 3.3)
  • More than half of global methane emissions stem from human activities in three sectors: fossil fuels (35 per cent of human-caused emissions), waste (20 per cent) and agriculture (40 per cent).
  • Currently available measures could reduce emissions from these major sectors by approximately 180 Mt/yr, or as much as 45 per cent, by 2030. This is a cost-effective step required to achieve the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 1.5° C target.

Background and a link to the 2021 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) global methane assessment is here.  Direct links to the Executive Summary and Full Report are here.

Lighter Footprints blog on gas

For more about why the so-called ‘gas-fired recovery’ is a bad idea go here.