New climate warnings in old permafrost

by Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News 


  • A new study in Science Advances says that only a few degrees of warming is needed for large scale permafrost thawing, which would release methane and carbon dioxide that has been trapped in the frost 
  • The permafrost regions of the arctic hold more carbon dioxide than the Earth’s atmosphere. If this carbon is released rapidly in large amounts it will accelerate climate change 
  • This tipping point due to permafrost melt has been seen before in other warming phases of the planet’s history
  • It is uncertain how much of this released carbon could be sequestered by peatlands and new arctic shrubs that have grown due to the warming of that region
  • The melting of permafrost is impacting indigenous peoples in the arctic, as the infrastructure they rely on is built on the collapsing permafrost

Scientists are increasingly warning that to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change, the world’s governments must implement policies for massive greenhouse gas emissions reductions and begin a drawdown of carbon from the atmosphere within ten years. With 9 of 15 global tipping points now active, what we do today can either unleash an inhospitable hothouse Earth or secure a safe climate well into the future. For a safe and healthy future for all, endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform to implement scalable solutions that can reverse the climate crisis.

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Opinion: Methane leaks in the Central Valley may be worsening COVID-19 cases

by Karen L. Jones, California Health Report


  • According to the California Department of Public Health, the death rate due to chronic lower respiratory disease is 12 times higher in the San Joaquin Valley compared to the rest of the state and 14 times higher than the national rate
  • The intense pollution in the region can have severe effects on Valley residents who contract COVID-19
  • Kern County does not meet federal ozone and particulate matter standards due to the pollution caused by the region’s petroleum industry among other factors such as unplugged oil wells that leak methane
  • There are reports of several wells leaking at rates over 200,000 percent above the EPA average estimate for western U.S. gas wells
  • Methane leaks detected by using airborne infrared imaging sensors show that nearly 4 billion cubic feet of methane may have been released in Kern County oil fields
  • The gathering of methane plume imagery could help locate and plug methane leaks in oil fields

Increased air pollution from fossil fuel emissions makes all of us more vulnerable to the current COVID-19 pandemic. For a safe and healthy future for all, endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform to implement scalable solutions that can reverse the climate crisis.

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Methane releases from oil and gas far more than we knew

By Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times


Oil and gas production sites emitting more methane than previously accounted for:

  • Fossil-fuel emissions from human activity — namely the production and burning of fossil fuels — were underestimated by 25 to 40 percent, per new study.
  • Methane emissions are particularly harmful in the short term, warming the atmosphere 83 times more than CO2 over its roughly 20-year lifetime.
  • Researchers studying ice cores determined that naturally occurring methane emission rates have been overestimated, leading the researchers to suggest fossil fuel-based emissions are higher than once previously thought
  • Robert Howarth, an earth system scientist at Cornell University who was not involved with the research, called it “a very important study.” He said it was consistent with recent research, like a study he published last year that estimated that North American gas production was responsible for about a third of the global increase in methane emissions over the past decade.

The Climate Center supports divestment campaigns that help speed up and scale up greenhouse gas reductions globally and nationally.

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Industry’s 3 largest landfill operators among California’s biggest methane emitters: report


  • A report found that the top methane point source polluters are landfills.
  • The three landfill operators, Republic Services, Waste Connections and Waste Management, “represent 26.8% of all methane from California facilities – the warming equivalent of more than 725,000 cars on the road annually.”
  • The large emitters have plans to offset their emissions generated by at least four times.

by E.A. Crunden, Waste Dive

Republic Services, Waste Connections and Waste Management are among California’s leading methane “super-emitters,” according to a report from Truvalue Research Labs based on NASA data. The new Truvalue research indicates that distinction could potentially cost the companies amid growing concerns about climate change.

California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) contracted with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to locate top methane point sources for single sites in the state from 2016 to 2018. JPL’s findings, released in a November 2019 report, covered more than 272,000 infrastructure elements in the state. It found “the largest methane emitters in California are a subset of landfills,” noting the three waste companies and the oil and gas-focused California Resources Corporation (CRC) each represented more than 2% of individual site emissions.

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