STEPHAN SINGER ON THE METHANE PROBLEM

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31 may 2019

[4C Note: We received the following letter to the Financial Times in an email from Stephen Singer, Senior Advisor Global Energy Policy, Climate Action Network International. He sends his letter rather than a url because only paying FT subscriber have access to the FT website. The initial paragraph explains to CAN recipients of Stephan's letter the importance of the methane issue. Stephan's FT letter follows that in italics. ]

The FT had correctly informed in an earlier text about the rapid growth of atmospheric methane concentrations since about 10 years but speculated primarily about wetlands, farmers in the tropics etc. I corrected that with the newest science led by Bob Howard in Cornell showi8ng that this is mainly fossil gas – leakage from conventional gas globally and even more leakage from fracked gas in the US that had exploding extraction rates in last years – also called now “Freedom gas” by the US.

Cheers

Stephan
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Sir,

“It is great to see that the FT alerts us on greenhouse gases other than CO2 (“Scientists warn over record levels of methane”, FT 24 May). We all know from scientists that to achieve the global goals of the internationally ratified climate agreement from Paris, we need to cut all gases in all sectors in all countries to close to zero by mid-century. And we also know that fossil fuels are key in that challenge, causing close to 80% of all global greenhouse gas emissions in 2018.

But this is not only CO2. The share of methane emissions in the fossil fuel sector is growing rapidly. And it is not the wetlands or other sectors that caused the rapid acceleration of atmospheric methane in last decade.

Research by various scientists, particularly Prof R Howarth in Cornell University (US), have shown that the global growth of fossil gas production and consumption in last years accelerated the methane leaks over production and distribution cycles. While conventional fossil gas on average emits about 3.4% of methane over life cycle globally, the US shale gas industry emits over 5%. According to Cornell University, these numbers reject any hypothetical climate benefit of fossil gas, conventional or fracking, over coal or oil in any sector. Because methane has a global warming potential of almost 100 times higher over a 20-year tme period than CO2.

Again, global Paris compliant decarbonisation requires a speedy and strong move to renewables and energy efficiency in all sectors. And not replacing high-carbon coal and oil with high shares of methane-leaky fossil gas which is not a “low-carbon” transition fuel and whatever the spin doctors of BP, EXXON, SHELL, GAZPROM and others keep on telling the public.”

Best regards

Dr Stephan Singer
Senior Advisor Global Energy Policy
Climate Action Network International


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