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Posts Tagged ‘Climate Change’

A Tribute to Stephen Hawking

Tue ,27/03/2018

In the wake of Stephen Hawking’s death, many are remembering him for his renowned intellect and his great accomplishments. Diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, which few survive more than a few years, he lived to the age of 76. Though he became increasingly paralyzed and was confined to a wheelchair for much of his life, he explored the universe with his mind and imagination. Though he had great difficulty communicating, he wrote dozens of scientific papers, gave hundreds of lectures, and wrote A Short History of Time, one of the most popular books of this century. Though his book was understandable by nonscientists, many of Hawking’s theories on the nature of the universe, black holes, and time are understood only by our greatest theoretical physicists.

Stephen Hawking stands among the great scientists, Aristotle, Galileo, Newton, Madame Curie, and Einstein. Aristotle gave us a stable universe governed by the laws of nature, which could be understood by observation and reason. Galileo showed that when there was a conflict between science and religious dogma, we should follow science. Though theologians insisted that the Earth was at the center of the Solar System, Galileo  showed with scientific evidence that God made the Solar System with the Sun at the center. Newton discovered the force that held the planets in place and the laws that describe motion. Madame Curie developed  our understanding of radioactive elements, nuclear radiation, and x-rays.

Einstein showed that matter could be converted to energy, and he developed the interrelation between mass, time,  and distance. Einstein may have also save democracy. Though he was a pacifist, he realized the dangers of letting Nazi Germany be first to develop atomic weapons, and he convinced Roosevelt that we should do it first. Stephen Hawking also applied his great mind and his heart to man’s condition. If we’re going to honor him as one of the world’s greatest minds, then we should to pay attention to the lessons and values he spoke about during his time on this planet as noted by Care2Causes:

Climate Change: In Hawking’s later years, no topic seemed to stir him more than climate change. “We’re close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible,” he said. “The solutions are already known…  We must counter corporate greed and corrupt politicians NOW to give humanity a fighting chance.”

Public Health Care: Diagnosed with motor neurone disease, few survive as long as Hawking did. He credits his longevity to the NHS (National Health Service) in the UK for giving him the care that would have been unaffordable in systems like those that exist in the United States.

Feminism: “I have always supported women’s rights,” said Hawking in an interview. When asked whether science had dictated his outlook on gender equality, he argued that it’s not a matter of science but “general acceptance that women are at least the equals of men.”

Assisted Suicide: Though Hawking seriously considered ending his own life in his young years, he ultimately decided to hold on. Still, that doesn’t mean it made him opposed to euthanasia altogether. He recognizes it as an important option to those who are at the end of their lives.

American Politics: Asked if his brilliant mind could explain how Donald Trump could ever get elected to lead the free world, he simply said, “I can’t.” Some things just defy logic.

Nuclear War: Hawking considers nuclear weapons one of the biggest threats to the survival of the human race. “Technology has advanced at such a pace that this aggression may destroy us all by nuclear or biological war,” Hawking warned.

Scientific Funding and Advancement: It’s not surprising that a scientist would advocate for better scientific funding or to utilize research in public policy.  The future is uncertain, and the best we can do is to gather as much information as we can to best face the challenges of tomorrow.

Though our leaders once based their decisions upon science and evidence, there is a disturbing trend now among our politicians to ignore science. Stephen Hawking believes that if the human race is to survive and prosper, we must base our political decisions on science and reason. He gives us a way to proceed, not only in science, but in national policies. We should honor his ideas.

(C) 2018 J.C. Moore

 

Please Nominate Your Candidates for the 2017 Environmental Hall of Fame/Shame Awards

Tue ,27/03/2018

Last year, 2017, saw some real heroes and villains with respect to the environment. It is important that we recognize those who most affected the environment, for good or ill, by their words or actions.

Each year, this site Earthrise2takes a poll to find those most deserving to be in the Environmental Hall of Fame or the Environmental Hall of Shame. Please send  your nominations  for  each category by e-mail through the “Contact the Author”   link, send it to moorejc2646@gmail.com, or put it in the comment section. If you would like, please include a short reason that your nominee should be chosen and suggest a suitable gift if they win.

Nominations will be taken until May 15, 2018. The nominees will then be  listed  and this site will conduct a poll to determine the winner in each category.  You may suggest a suitable prize for your nominee. Please be imaginative, as particularly thoughtful or humorous  nominations will  be recognized and published on this site.

(c) 2018 J.C. Moore

Has Global Warming Made Hurricane Damage Worse?

Sun ,31/12/2017

Hurricanes are the most violent and destructive storms in nature. There’s a smaller, yet potentially destructive, storm raging between climate scientists and climate skeptics about the nature of hurricanes. The scientific evidence points to the fact that global warming  causes hurricanes to be more intense. Skeptics would like to convince everyone that global warming has not made any change in hurricanes, so there is no need to address global warming. Skeptics do have a point or two, but not many. Skeptics want absolute proof from the scientists, but science doesn’t work that way. The changes caused by a warming world have changed the probability of the occurrence of extreme weather events, and skeptics apparently don’t want to consider probabilities.

Skeptics say that the number of hurricanes in the Southern Atlantic is not increasing, and they’re probably right on that. Hurricanes begin as tropical storms, which occur at random depending on the weather conditions. Skeptics also say that the increasing economic damages done by hurricane is because of the increased construction along the coasts. That is partly right, but it is also right that the damage done by storm surges has increased because of increased sea level rise, which is a measurable consequence of global warming. Those who listen to the skeptics, and unwisely build in floodplains, are sure to experience more damage from storm surges.

Global warming has made the oceans much warmer, even later into the year. The water temperature must be above 82°F for a tropical storm to grow into a hurricane, and the warmer the ocean the more likely it is that the a hurricane, once formed,  will intensify. Hurricanes are much like a heat engine, they are driven by the warm air rising from the oceans much like a chimney effect. The greater the temperature difference between the ocean and the upper atmosphere, the faster the flow upward and the greater the wind speeds.

If you could slice into a hurricane, it would look something like the diagram below. It has a low pressure eye at the center, and the air drawn into it rises and circulates counterclockwise around the low pressure area, faster and faster as it nears the eye. The small red arrows show warm, moist air rising from the ocean, and forming bands of clouds around the eye. As the warm moist air produces rain, more heat is released, warming the air further and causing it to rise faster until it reaches the top of the storm. Reaching there, it has become cooler and dryer. The blue arrows show how the cool, dry air then sinks in the eye and between the bands of clouds. Remember that the bands of clouds are rotating very quickly, and the large red arrow show the rotation of the rising bands of clouds.

.                                                                                                                                                      Credit: Kelvinsong

A hurricane is much like a heat engine. It is driven by the energy from the warm oceans and the cold temperature of the atmosphere above the storm. Because of global warming, that temperature difference is greater. The upper atmosphere receives its energy from the earth below. The increasing carbon dioxide between acts as a blanket, which causes the oceans to be warmer and the upper atmosphere to be colder. As in all heat engines, the greater the temperature difference, the more power the engine has. As a hurricane passes, it leaves the oceans cooler behind it as it sucks energy from the ocean. Because of global warming, the warmth goes deeper there is a greater area of warm water,  both factors which provide more heat to the hurricane and cause it to increase in size and intensify.

The vapor pressure of water increases exponentially with temperature. In our warmer world, there is now 10 to 15% more water vapor in the rain bands moving around the hurricane. When hurricane Harvey made landfall over Houston, it could be expected that Houston would receive increased rainfall. But by chance, Harvey stalled  over Houston and continued to pull warm moist air in from the Gulf, dumping over 50 inches of rain. Sea level rise has been measured to be about 30 inches along the Gulf Coast. The extreme rainfall coupled with the sea level rise  increased the storm surge and flooded much of the lower areas of Houston. The storm’s stalling was a chance event, and the skeptics are right when they say it should not have happened, but it did. Considering the storm’s intensity, the wind damage, the sea level rise, and the extreme rainfall, climate scientists attribute about 30% of the damage in Houston to global warming.

Below is a satellite image of hurricane Irma on the right, compared in size to the smaller hurricane Andrew which struck Florida in 1992, killing 65 people, destroying 65,000 home, and doing $26 billion in damages. Andrew was the  the most destructive hurricane to hit Florida ever before, and Irma could have been much worse.  

 

Florida was extremely lucky that hurricane Irma, wider than the whole Peninsula, went up the western side of the Peninsula. The western side of the  Peninsula experienced very little storm surge. The winds on the leading edge of the Irma, circulating counterclockwise, blew the ocean water away from shore, leaving the ocean dry for several hundred yards out as it passed. The storm was so weakened that by the time the back of the storm made landfall, directing the water toward shore, that the storm surge was only a few feet. Had Irma gone up the east side of Florida, the storm surge at the leading edge of the hurricane could have been as much as 15 feet, completely inundating much of Miami.

There you have it. Global warming has increased the temperatures of the oceans and has increased the temperature difference between the oceans and the upper atmosphere, both factors which tend to make the hurricanes more intense. The warmer oceans put more moisture into the air, making the rainfall from the hurricanes greater, and sea level rise has increased the height of the destructive storm surges. This fall, there were five intense hurricanes which formed in the Southern Atlantic, all of them making landfall and doing extensive damage. That could just be a chance occurrence, as the skeptics claim, but it has never happened before.

(c) 2017 –  J.C. Moore

Climate Change: Science and Solutions

Sun ,13/08/2017

This is an update of an earlier PowerPoint presentation which reviews the scientific evidence for climate change and recommends a carbon fee and dividend system to address global warming. It was presented to the Oasis Fellowship in Wichita, Kansas. Though you may miss some things without the verbal presentation, the slides are mostly self-explanatory. You will need a PowerPoint program to view the slides –  you may  download a free viewer here. The slides will display as set in your viewer. Please click on the link below to start the program.

Oasis

 

(c) This program is not copyrighted. Please use or share it freely.

Environmental Security and Renewable Energy

Thu ,18/05/2017

Below are two letters published in the Wichita Eagle recently. They remind us that there are many reasons for taking action on climate change. They are reprinted  with the authors’ permissions.

 

Grow economy with wind energy

 As a 30-year-old living in the middle of Wichita, I am constantly thinking about job growth and how to keep my friends from moving away to states with job opportunities more in line with their needs. I am in love with this state because of its natural beauty – prairie grasses, limestone and sunsets that I can enjoy nearly every day.
The more I learn about renewable energy, the more excited I become for what it could do for our state. At a legislative roundtable in 2013 discussing the benefits of Kansas wind energy, they said that more than 13,000 jobs could be created from construction and operation of wind turbines. The American Wind Energy Association reports as of late 2016 that Kansas has 4.4 gigawatts of wind capacity.
What if we utilized our energy capabilities right here instead of purchasing coal from other states? Let’s grow our economy and start thinking of alternatives that would withstand our extreme realities of droughts and floods, employ citizens, and allow Kansas to become more energy independent.
Alisha Gridley, Wichita

Environmental security matters

Let’s talk about security – the state of being absent of danger or fear. The types of security are many: home, health, food, financial, cyber, national, etc.What may not come so readily to mind is environmental security — which is to live in an environment that provides clean air and water and a predictable and livable climate.
Inaction on climate change poses a threat to our environmental security. Climate scientists are convinced, based upon a vast body of evidence, that human-caused climate change is happening. Unabated, climate change will result in an increase of extreme weather-related disasters and coastal flooding that will consume an escalating percentage of our gross domestic product, putting our economic and national security at risk.
The U.S. House’s Bipartisan Climate Caucus recognizes this risk. This group, split evenly with Democrats and Republicans, promotes legislation that would collect a fee on fossil fuel production and distribute all the collections equally among the American citizenry as a dividend. This offers a market-based approach to deal with climate change and achieve environmental security.
RICHARD COWLISHAW, WINFIELD
 
Note: Both authors are members of the Citizens’ Climate Education and the  Citizens’ Climate Lobby  groups in Wichita. They are both strong advocates for a carbon fee and dividend system to ensure clean air, pure water, and a healthy future for our children.

Green Energy Is Not a Frivolous “Add on”

Mon ,03/04/2017

Article Photo
Dr. Pirotte’s clinic with solar panels

This is a reprint of a letter to the Wichita Eagle from Dr. Patrick Pirotte, which explains why renewable energy is important for our future.

Dr. Patrick Pirotte, O.D., is a board certified Fellow in the College of Optometrists in Vision Development and treats children with vision and learning-related vision problems. He lectures nationwide on the diagnosis and treatment of vision problems in children and on the impact of vision problems on learning and classroom performance. He is a member of the Citizens Climate Lobby and is an advocate for their carbon fee and dividend system to ensure a healthy future for our children.

The letter below is reprinted with his permission:

“I read with interest recent statements by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., about renewable energy in Kansas (Oct. 1 Eagle). To imply that the only thing that green energy is doing in Kansas or elsewhere is a frivolous “add on” is incorrect.

Currently installed wind and solar are eliminating hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide while providing reliable energy at competitive prices. The idea that fossil fuel plants must be constantly kept running to back up intermittent sources such as solar or wind is not true.

When President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is allowed to go into effect, there will be a dramatic reduction in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases nationally and internationally. Proponents of burning fossil fuels should recognize these benefits and champion clean energy, saving lives and lowering health care costs.

Furthermore, the price of fossil fuels is not the just cost of fossil fuels, but also the external costs to the environment and people’s health. Because of that, there is a constant error in the way carbon pricing is discussed.

Senator Moran and his colleagues should consider a practical and well-studied proposal to charge a fee on carbon and give a dividend to each household, protecting those who would be harmed by the increased cost of their energy beyond their ability to pay. It is not a tax. Most importantly, it uses the market to send price signals to consumers to move their purchases away from fossil fuels, which will reduce climate change harm from burning them.”

PAT PIROTTE, WICHITA

 

Note: Dr. Pirotte is not only an advocate for renewable energy, but serves as an example of what can be done. He has installed 40 kW of solar panels on his 9000 square foot clinic as pictured above . They have a battery storage system and supply 90% of the energy needed to run the clinic. It is connected by a net metering system to the grid and on sunny days, particularly if the clinic is closed, his installation sends a considerable amount of electricity back onto the grid. He estimates the solar panels save him $6200 per year on his electricity costs and have a payback time of 14 years at current rates. His clinic serves as an example of how businesses can save money and energy by installing solar panels.

(C) 2017 J.C. Moore

Beans to Beef: How Diet Affects the Climate and Your Health

Wed ,15/03/2017

This guest article is a PowerPoint presentation given by Jane Byrnes to the March Citizens Climate Education meeting. Jane is a Licensed Dietitian and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. It is a balanced presentation encouraging you to eat more locally grown fruits and vegetables and encouraging you to eat less meat, particularly beef and lamb.

Though you will miss some things without Jane’s guidance, the slides are mostly self-explanatory. You will need a PowerPoint program to view the slides –  you may  download a free viewer here. The slides will display as set in your viewer. Please click on the link below to start the program.

Beef to Beans 3-11-17

 

Climate Change: Science and Solutions

Thu ,21/04/2016

This presentation was given at the Great Plains Conference on Animals and the Environment at Fort Hays State University for Earth Day 2016.  The first part of the program presents the evidenceccl1 for climate change and explains the urgency for taking action. The second part of the presentation explains the Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s  proposal to reduce our carbon emissions below 1990 levels by 2035.  The plan, with broad bipartisan support, would place a fee on carbon at the source and allow market forces to encourage reduced emissions, energy conservation and investments in renewable energy.

Science and Solutions 

Please click on the link above. You will need a PowerPoint program to view the slides – or you may  download a free viewer here. The slides will display as set in your viewer. The slides were meant to be somewhat self-explanatory, but if you have questions you may email the author or post your questions in the comment section. The slides were  prepared by Darrel Hart, Mark Shobe, and J.C. Moore.

The 2015 Environmental Hall of Fame/Shame Winners

Thu ,31/03/2016
The picture at the right  Moonreminds us of how beautiful, small, and finite the Earth is – and how important it is that we protect it. This contest was designed to identify those who work to protect the Earth and those who would damage it through their actions. The 2015 Environmental Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame contests were carried out on four websites and the votes were combined to determine those who have most affected the environment.

The 2015 Environmental Hall of Fame Winners are:

1. (37% of vote) Bill Nye the science guy, and Neil deGrasse Tyson for their efforts at educating the public. Hearing them together on Tyson’s Star Talk radio show makes me think that they should have a prime time TV show. They are a riot together and certainly help people understand the science of global warming. Prize : A prime time TV show together.

 

2. (25%) President Barack Obama, both for managing to thread the needle in Paris and for postponing the decision on Keystone XL until it was uneconomical and too late for anybody in Congress to want to do anything in a presidential election year. Pres. Obama managed to tie the US Paris agreement to a previous treaty to avoid a possible defeat in Congress if it needed their approval. Prize : An political chess set.

3. (19%) Representative Chris Gibson (R-NY) for introducing H. Res. 424, a Republican Climate Resolution to address mitigating global warming. He, along with 12 Republican cosponsors, support  H. Res. 424 which states, “It is a conservative principle to protect, conserve, and be good stewards of our environment.” This is a very hopeful sign of progress along the road to bipartisan climate action. Prize: Enough political support to ward off Americans for Prosperity and other climate change deniers.

4. (19%) California Governor Jerry Brown for his tireless efforts to make policies and laws to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to protect the residents of CA  and the surrounding states from the worst impacts of global warming.  He has signed pacts to combat the planet’s warming with leaders from 13 countries including Mexico, China, North America, Japan, Israel and Peru. Reward: More support from the U.S. Congress.

Honorable Mention. The “little old guy” from the retirement center seen several times a week   leaning on his cane to pick up stuff other people believe they couldn’t be bothered with.  (And does it while walking a dog). Award: Our thanks for being such a good example to us all.

 

Hall of Shame Recipients are: 

1. ( 45%) The dishonorable Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan and his sycophants for not only allowing the poisoning of Flint Michigan children but also insisting that the healthcare professionals who brought this to their attention be dismissed and demeaned by Michigan Environmental officials. To save money, the state switched Flint’s water supply to that of the corrosive water of Flint River, which leached lead out of the city’s water pipes, affecting the resident’s health and causing lead poisoning in thousands of Flint’s children.

Award: A lead pipe connection for their office water supply from the Flint River.

2. ( 35% ) The 114th Congress of the United States for their repeated acts, statements, and actions against climate science, scientist, and new clean energy technologies – and for being out of step with the American public who by a majority in both parties support efforts to reduce CO2. An example would be Lamar Smith (R -TX) for trying to influence the science findings at NOAA.  Award: A huge dearth of votes in the next election for those who oppose climate science.

3.  (10%)  Exxon/Mobil for their continued climate denial and for sowing doubt about CO2’s role in global warming even though their own scientists knew in 1980 that CO2 from fossil fuels was the cause.  Though their lying to the public is apparently not against the law, lying to their stockholders is , and several states are moving to sue them for damages. Award: Judgments against Exxon/Mobil like those against tobacco companies.


4. ( 10%) North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and the NC lawmakers who tacked on a 61-page “business-friendly” measure to a 1-page technical bill – then rammed through the law without public input. It:

  • Gave polluters immunity from certain fines & penalties
  • Allows polluters to avoid full cleanup of soil and groundwater contamination
  • Permits polluters to self-report without enforcement or fines
  • Rolls back clean water and air protections
  • Rejects science on sea level rise

Award: Nickname North Carolina the “Polluters Paradise” in their honor.

Note: Senator James Inhofe,  the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee,  was nominated so many times that he was awarded a Lifetime Membership in the Environmental Hall of Shame to give others a chance. He claims “climate change is the biggest hoax in history” and wrote a book about it (reviewed here). He is famous for comparing the EPA to a Gestapo bureaucracy, appearing at climate conferences as if he spoke for the US, and bringing snowballs onto the senate floor as if they proved climate change is a hoax. The person who nominated him for a Lifetime Award thought he should be barraged with snowballs for as long as it snows in Washington D.C..

(C) 2016 J.C. Moore

 

Carbon Fee and Dividend: How Much Fuel Makes a Ton of Carbon Dioxide?

Mon ,11/01/2016

In Paris, 196 countries agreed to develop plans to reduce their carbon emissions in such a way as to keep global warming below 1.5°C.  Although each country will develop its own plan,  the best plan for the US, and many other countries, would be a carbon fee and dividend system such as that developed by the  Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), which has broad bipartisan support.  CCL’s proposal would place a fee on carbon at the source, and market forces would then encourage reduced emissions, energy conservation and investments in renewable energy.  The fee collected is not a tax as it would be distributed equally to every household as a monthly energy dividend.

CO2 equivalent emissions: CCL’s legislative proposal would set an initial fee on carbon at $15 per ton of CO2 emission or CO2 equivalent emissions with the fee increasing by $10 each year until the US emissions drop to 1990 levels. The main contributors to CO2 are combustion of coal, natural gas, and gasoline, with minor equivalent emissions coming from other industrial chemicals.  A little chemistry allows us to calculate the tons of CO2 that a ton of each fuel produces.

Coal: It is hard to calculate coal’s contribution exactly as it has from 65% to 95% carbon and the rest is impurities. Those include mercury, cadmium, lead, manganese, selenium, sulfur, nitrogen, and some radioactive elements. Much of the environmental damage and many cases of lung disease can be traced to the impurities and to the mining of coal. For calculation purposes we will assume that coal is all carbon as graphite, but keep in mind that each source of coal is different.

The chemically equation for the reaction of carbon with oxygen is:

co22

 

 

 

 

Carbon       +     Oxygen    =>        Carbon Dioxide

The mass of each atom or molecule in atomic mass units (MU) is written on the atom. The equation says that 12 mass units of carbon react with 32 mass units of oxygen to produce 44 mass units of carbon dioxide. The equation is like a recipe and once you establish the basic relationship, it can be scaled up to tons quite easily, i.e. :

C            +          O2               =>                 CO2

12 MU Carbon + 32 MU Oxygen  =>   44 MU Carbon Dioxide    – or –

12 Tons Carbon + 32 Tons Oxygen    =>  44 Tons Carbon Dioxide

Thus, each ton of carbon produces 3.6 tons of carbon dioxide.

Natural gas: Natural gas is composed mostly of methane, CH4 , with small impurities of other hydrocarbon gases. Following the method above:

Rx

 

 

 

 

 

CH4            +         2O2                =>                 CO2                  +          2H2O

16 MU Methane + 64 MU Oxygen   =>  44 MU Carbon Dioxide  +36 MU of Water

16 Tons Methane + 64 Tons Oxygen    =>   44 tons Carbon Dioxide  +36 tons of Water

Each ton of methane produces 2.8 tons of carbon dioxide.

Gasoline: Gasoline is composed of many volatile liquid compounds, but it can best be represented as octane, which has eight carbon atoms and 18 hydrogen atoms, C8H18. (The model for Octane is large so here we will just work from the equation. )

C8H18     +         25/2 O2   =>        8CO2        +         9 H2O

114 AMU  Octane +   Oxygen  =>  352 AMU  Carbon Dioxide  +   Water

114 Tons Octane +   Oxygen  =>  44 tons Carbon Dioxide  +  Water

Each ton of octane produces 3.1 tons of carbon dioxide.

Note: This means that the initial carbon fee on fossil fuels would be around $40-$50 per ton of fuel. This would pay part of the external costs of using the fuel as well as encourage conservation and a shift to renewable energy. One gallon of gasoline is about 7 pounds and it produces about 21 pounds of CO2. That means that 95 gallons of gasoline will produce 1 ton of carbon dioxide. The $15 per ton carbon fee would increase the cost of 95 gallons of gas from about $200 to about $215, or about 7%.

Heat of Combustion: Each fuel releases a different amount of energy when burned, measured in kilojoules  of energy per  mole of fuel burned. Those are listed below along with another important quantity, the amount of heat released per mole of carbon dioxide released.

Fuel

 

 

 

 

Note that Methane releases more than twice as much energy as coal for each mole of carbon dioxide produced. This was the impetus to convert coal-fired power plants to natural gas-fired plants. That would help in the short term as natural gas has fewer impurities and produces more energy per mole of CO2 released.  However, there is another factor to be considered which is the Global Warming Potential of each greenhouse gas.

Global Warming Potential (GWP):   The amount that each greenhouse gas contributes to global warming depends upon its concentration in the atmosphere, it’s effectiveness at trapping heat, and its lifetime in the atmosphere. The focus is on carbon dioxide as it is the greenhouse gas whose concentration has increased the most by burning fossil fuels. Methane is very efficient at trapping heat and has a GWP 28 times that of CO2. Though methane’s concentration is low, it has more than doubled since pre-industrial times. There are other greenhouse gases which are more effective at trapping heat and have longer lifetimes, such as N2O, but their contributions are small because they have such low concentrations. Below is a table comparing those. Source.

co2 table

 

 

 

 

Although converting coal-fired power plants to natural gas might be advantageous in the short term, we should be concerned about methane’s volatile prices, the link between fracking and earthquakes, and its GWP. Large amounts of methane are lost from fracking operations, leaking gas wells, and pipeline leaks.  If even 4% of the methane produced is lost to leaks, then any advantage of converting to methane will be lost.  The EPA has taken steps to reduce methane loss to the air, but is a very difficult thing to measure. One study found that infrastructure leaks in the Boston area accounted for about 2.6% of the methane transmitted. And methane, when burned, still ends up as CO2 in the atmosphere. You can see from the table that the amount of methane in the air is growing, and rather than count on it for the future, we should focus on converting to renewable energy sources as quickly as possible.

(C) 2016  –  J.C. Moore

Note: Here is a model of octane for the curious:

octane