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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How the gas industry is waging war against climate action

by Emily Holden, The Guardian


  • The gas industry has been orchestrating efforts to push against any climate policy that threatens their business models through coalition building, hiring lobbying firms, social media strategy, and op-eds
  • Though natural gas is touted as a safe resource, the extraction and transportation of the gas leaks methane, which is more powerful than carbon dioxide and is being emitted by the gas industry in large quantities
  • In Seattle, where the city council attempted to ban natural gas hookups in order to eliminate pollution, there was mass opposition from plumbers, realtors, and building owners who feared job losses and discontent with people who wanted gas in their homes
  • Charlie Spatz, a researcher at the Climate Investigations Center, says that the push back is due to the threat of the industries failing business:

“The gas utilities are facing an existential threat, and instead of approaching a decarbonizing economy as an opportunity to reinvent themselves, they’re digging their heels in and going back to the age-old tactics of [the fossil fuel industry]”

  • A group called Partnership for Energy Progress (PEP) which consists of western utilities, labor unions and businesses plans to spend nearly $3 million in efforts to convince consumers that natural gas is an important player in our green energy future
    • The American Public Gas Association is spending at least $127,000 on anti-electrification initiatives and $200,000 for media monitoring, engagement with reporters, letters to the editor, op-eds and social media efforts

While the gas industry has been touting how many jobs they support, jobs within the renewable sector are vastly outpacing those in the fossil fuel industry. The Climate Center works toward electrifying buildings and vehicles using 100% clean energy sources such as solar and wind to eliminate fossil fuel-based emissions and promote economic opportunities in the renewable energy industry.

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A jobs program to plug abandoned oil wells sounds like a win-win. Is it?

by Emily Pontecorvo, Grist


  • Abandoned oil wells across the country are leaking methane, a greenhouse gas that has 86 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide
  • The impending collapse of the oil industry around the world will only make matters worse, as more oil wells will be abandoned and the gas leaks will continue
  • A new report from Resources for the Future and Columbia University suggests creating a federally funded jobs program that would plug the holes left by oil wells by employing oil and gas workers
  • Similar propositions have been made: one in an infrastructure bill passed by the US House of Representatives and a nearly $2 billion program in Canada
  • There are 56,600 known unplugged “orphaned” wells within the country, however, there may be hundreds of thousands of unknown wells that were created before regulations were in place
  • The cost of plugging the wells range from $4,000 to over $100,000 per well with a total program cost of  $1.4 billion to $2.7 billion and could support about 13,500 jobs for one year
  • However, these costs are only estimates and the true cost of plugging could be more
  • As demand for labor and equipment increases, costs could increase or they could decrease as crews learn to plug wells more efficiently. Carbon Tracker found that the cost of plugging a newer shale well, which is typically thousands of feet deeper than older wells, could be anywhere from $300,000 to more than $1 million.
  • Once taxpayers start spending billions to plug wells, the oil industry will have successfully avoided many of their own costs and successfully left them on the backs of taxpayers
  • Any federal effort to plug abandoned wells should likely focus on older, truly orphaned wells to avoid a perverse incentive for the industry to create more wells, and they should require states to ensure future plugging costs are fully covered by the industry.

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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SoCal Gas Reaches $8.5 Million Settlement Over Aliso Canyon Gas Leak

SoCalGas ramps up use of Aliso Canyon, site of worst gas leak in U.S. history

by Sammy Roth, The Los Angeles Times


One of Governor Gavin Newsom’s campaign promises was to wind down the usage of the Aliso Canyon gas storage field, located just outside Los Angeles. New reports show that the facility usage has increased during his governorship

  • Publicly available information analyzed by Food and Water Watch shows that SoCalGas, the owners of the facility, withdrew 20 billion cubic feet of gas from the site this winter
  • Aliso Canyon had the largest methane leak in U.S. history during 2015. Other pollutants in the leak include benzene and mercaptan, known to cause cancers.
  • Many environmental groups and residents near the field are calling for its closure due to the health impacts that many community members experience, including nausea, nose bleeds, and headaches
    • These complaints were large during the gas leak, but residents are feeling these events even as late as May 2020
  • Since the major gas leak, gas company officials say they have made many safety improvements including assessing oil wells every two years
  • The California Public Utilities Commission relaxed restrictions placed on the site due to concerns of high energy prices and supply shortages
  • Many believe SoCalGas still uses Aliso Canyon because the facility was worth $769 million at the end of 2019, and as long as it remains in use, SoCalGas customers will be on the hook to pay off the company’s investment, plus shareholder profits
  • Though clean energy advocates want to see the end of natural gas use within the state, SoCalGas wants to use more gas captured from dairy farms

Increased air pollution from fires and 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 levels reach an all-time high

By Jeremy Deaton, Nexus Media


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that the greenhouse gas methane has reached all-time high levels in the atmosphere, threatening Paris Agreement climate goals.

  • Methane is about 80 times more potent than CO2 and has been increasing its presence in the atmosphere for the last 20 years
  •  In 2019, the concentration of atmospheric methane reached nearly 1875 parts per billion, the highest level since record-keeping began in 1983
  • The primary source of methane are wetlands where microbes excrete the gas 
  • One human-caused source of pollution is large livestock farms where sheep and cows burp out methane
  • For the short-term, leaking oil wells can be plugged
  • Oil and gas firms could cut down methane emissions by nearly half if they invested in equipment that captures the leaking gas, but these firms would rather invest in new oil drilling sites in order to make more profits

The transition to 100% clean energy and electrification are a key to achieving the goals of The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California Platform.

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Unexpected surge in methane emissions has scientists worried

from Climate Nexus


There is a noticeable global surge in methane emissions with the U.S. accounting for the largest source of growth.  If this trend continues, all progress made towards reaching Paris Agreement climate goals will be lost. 

  • Though tropical wetlands may play a role, scientists agree that large methane emissions are from the production and distribution of natural gas
  • Scientists agree the most practical option to mitigating these emissions is through ending gas leaks and venting
  • Fossil-fuel methane emissions account for roughly 34% of total anthropogenic emissions, which in turn account for as much as 60% of total methane emissions
  • In the United States, the natural gas and petroleum system is the largest source of methane emissions and recent analysis suggests that U.S. methane emissions from this industry have increased over the last 10 years at 3.4% per year– about 40% over the decade
  • The International Energy Agency estimates that the global oil and gas industry is capable of reducing its emissions by 75% and 40-50% of these emissions reductions can be made at zero net cost

The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California campaign includes steps to get to 100% clean energy.  

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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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Aerial view of fracking wells.

The methane mystery is solved, giving direction and hope

by Andy Ferguson

A scientific mystery has been solved, giving direction and hope on the climate front.

Methane is 102 times more powerful than CO2 as a cause of climate change, but because it remains in the atmosphere an average of only nine years, reducing methane emissions offers quick and tangible results for fighting climate change. The biggest reductions will come from rapidly phasing out natural gas use, plus eating less meat and getting rid of animal feed lots. Here we consider the biggest culprit, natural gas.

Since 2006, methane emissions have been rapidly increasing, helping to drive up recent worldwide temperatures. Scientists have debated the cause of the increase. Because methane has increased in step with the development of natural gas emissions from hydraulic shale fracturing (“fracking”), many pointed to that activity as the main cause. Other scientists pointed to known increased methane emissions from animal feed lots, as well as tropical wetlands and rice paddies. The data was unclear, because emissions from all sources, taken separately, added up to a total even higher than what was being observed. This cast doubt on all of the scientists’ arguments and no consensus could be reached.

Now the debate has been solved. NASA scientists recently determined that one category of methane emissions, the burning of tropical forests, has declined much faster than previously thought. The result is that the total increase in methane emissions must be primarily due to the oil and gas sector, and renewed attention has now been focused on methane emissions from natural gas leaks. The major oil companies have belatedly recognized this fact, and have now begun measures to try to address this issue by reducing leaks from their operations.

But methane emissions caused by natural gas leaks cannot be reduced enough by the limited steps being taken by the oil giants. Recent studies have shown that leaks from fracking and active oil well drilling, while very large, are by no means the only causes of the problem. Rapidly increasing (and leaky) abandoned oil and gas wells, leaky pipelines, and old, creaking gas distribution systems in cities also are major contributors to the problem. Trying to fix all these issues is prohibitively expensive and ultimately futile. The unavoidable solution to methane leaks is a rapid phase out of natural gas as a source of heating energy throughout society.

The “electrify everything” movement is the result of this methane crisis. Technology is available for transitioning to electric appliances and heating in homes and businesses, even if consumers remain largely unaware of new, low-cost and low-emission options. In California, heating water occupies much of total energy demand, so replacing natural gas water heaters with electric heat pump models is garnering much attention. Ductless or ducted heat pumps that can replace central natural gas furnaces are also gaining ground rapidly. These and other appliances like electric induction ranges, high-efficiency electric clothes dryers, and a slew of other electric products now permit even existing homes to reduce or eliminate their use of natural gas. Such steps are essential to help avoid the worst effects of climate change.

The time to rapidly phase out natural gas has arrived. For more information on how to electrify everything, click here.