AuthorTopic: Reading Climate Articles For Comprehension  (Read 52 times)

Offline Eddie

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Reading Climate Articles For Comprehension
« on: February 20, 2020, 07:35:20 AM »
Every climate article you see in the MSM press or from most online news sources comes with some kind of spin attached. Bet on it.

In the feeds I use, the spin is mostly climate alarmism. If I were using Breitbart or or Fox, the spin would be "climate hoax".

I'm going to show you a great example of this. I'm doing it because you don't believe what I'm telling you about the spin...but it's easy to prove.  A couple of days ago I started seeing headlines like these:

Humanity’s methane problem could be much bigger than scientists thought

Scientists greatly underestimating methane emitted by humans

We've Vastly Underestimated How Much Methane Humans Are Spewing Into The Atmosphere

Oil and Gas May Be a Far Bigger Climate Threat Than We Knew

Sounds pretty bad. That last one is from the New York Times, which tends to swing to the alarmist side. All these articles are based on a recent article in Nature. Let's look at the facts. First, let's read the online version of the NYT piece...

Oil and Gas May Be a Far Bigger Climate Threat Than We Knew

Emissions from human activity like the burning of fossil fuels may have been sharply underestimated

Hiroko Tabuchi
By Hiroko Tabuchi
Feb. 19, 2020

Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in the earth’s atmosphere than previously thought, new research has found.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, add urgency to efforts to rein in methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or intentionally releases the gas into air.

“We’ve identified a gigantic discrepancy that shows the industry needs to, at the very least, improve their monitoring,” said Benjamin Hmiel, a researcher at the University of Rochester and the study’s lead author. “If these emissions are truly coming from oil, gas extraction, production use, the industry isn’t even reporting or seeing that right now.”

Atmospheric concentrations of methane have more than doubled from preindustrial times. A New York Times investigation into “super emitter” sites last year revealed vast quantities of methane being released from oil wells and other energy facilities instead of being captured.

The extent to which fossil fuel emissions, as opposed to natural sources, are responsible for the rising methane levels has long been a matter of scientific debate. Methane seeps from the ocean bed, for instance, and also spews from land formations called mud volcanoes.

It’s a Vast, Invisible Climate Menace. We Made It Visible.Dec. 12, 2019

To shed light on the mystery, researchers at Rochester’s Department of Earth and Environmental Studies examined ice cores from Greenland, as well as data from Antarctica stretching back to about 1750, before the industrial revolution.

They found that methane emissions from natural phenomena were far smaller than estimates used to calculate global emissions. That means fossil-fuel emissions from human activity — namely the production and burning of fossil fuels — were underestimated by 25 to 40 percent, the researchers said.

The scientists were helped in their analysis by different isotopes found in methane emissions from natural sources, compared to emissions from the production of fossil fuels. Isotopes are versions of an element that have very slight differences, allowing the researchers to differentiate between them.

They used a melting chamber with a set of high-power burners to melt more than 2,000 pounds of ice cores to extract and examine air samples from the past. “It looked like a little rocket ship,” said Vasilii Petrenko, a co-author of the Nature study and an associate professor at Rochester. “Think of a rocket engine, but except the flames pointing at the device.”

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.

“Emissions from fossil sources are correspondingly larger than many have been estimating,” Dr. Howarth said. “I find it very convincing.”

Daniel J. Jacob, professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering at Harvard University, also described the findings as significant. Current estimates of methane from geological sources “were widely considered too high by atmospheric modelers such as myself,” he wrote in an email.

But he took issue with the suggestion that emissions from fossil fuel production were larger than previously estimated. Fossil fuel emissions are “based on fuel production rates, number of facilities, and direct measurements if available. The natural geological source is irrelevant for these estimates,” he said.

The disagreement reflects an overall discrepancy between what are called “bottom-up” measurements of emissions, those from individual oil and gas sites, as opposed to “top-down” calculations like the ones carried out by the Rochester researchers. “Bottom-up” measurements can be unreliable because of a lack of data from individual oil and gas sites. With “top-down” measurements, on the other hand, the exact source of emissions can be hard to pin down.

The findings come as oil and gas companies face increased pressure to rein in greenhouse gas emissions from their operations to address rising concerns about climate change.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is of particular concern, because it can warm the planet more than 80 times as much as the same amount of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. On top of fossil fuel production, livestock, landfills and other sources linked to human activity also emit methane.

Last week, the British oil giant BP set an ambitious climate change goal, saying it aimed to eliminate or offset by 2050 all planet-warming emissions from its oil and gas production, as well as emissions caused by the burning of the oil and gas it pumps from the ground. The company provided few details on how it would achieve that feat, however.

Adding to climate concerns, the Trump administration is moving forward with a plan that effectively eliminates requirements that oil companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from oil and gas facilities. By the Environmental Protection Agency’s own calculations, the rollback would increase methane emissions by 370,000 tons through 2025, enough to power more than a million homes for a year.

Dr. Petrenko, one of the Rochester study’s authors, said that the huge undertaking of studying giant ice cores meant the study relied on a small sampling of data. “These measurements are incredibly difficult. So getting more data to help confirm our results would be very valuable,” he said. “That means there’s quite a bit more research to be done.”

For more climate news sign up for the Climate Fwd: newsletter or follow @NYTClimate on Twitter.

Hiroko Tabuchi is an investigative reporter

I was scratching my head when I read it on the first pass. i just looked at methane emissions last week, and the news I saw was that the IPCC has been OVERESTIMATING methane in their models significantly, and for years...and although methane has been rising, the expected spike from melting permafrost hasn't shown up in the data. So what gives?

I'll get to that, but first lets look at another article I saw elsewhere, based on the same original Nature article.

Same exact science, different news organization....ABC News.

Methane emissions are probably much higher than we thought and that could be a good thing

ABC Science

By environment reporter Nick Kilvert

If very strong action is taken to rapidly cut methane emissions, we could see climate benefits within 10 years. (ABC News: Oscar Coleman)
If somebody told you we've underestimated our methane emissions, you probably wouldn't think that's good news.

Key points:

Humans are emitting more than 96 per cent of fossil methane emissions
Previous estimates were about 66-75 per cent
Researchers say that means we can do something about it
Publishing their findings in Nature today, researchers have found that human activity is the source of nearly all the atmosphere's fossil methane — the kind that comes from underground.

On the one hand, this is not good news. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

But there is a way that this latest scientific finding can, with a very big "but", be interpreted positively, according to study co-author David Etheridge from the CSIRO's Oceans and Atmosphere division.

"The flip side is because we're making these emissions, we can deal with it. It's actually a good news story," he said.

"We know where it's coming from, it's mainly coming out of oil and gas production, and we can deal with it."

The other potential positive is that methane has a much shorter lifespan in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide — about 10 years for methane compared to between 20 and 200 years for the majority of CO2.

Our CO2 emissions today are locking in warming for the next 100 years or more.

But if we theoretically cut our methane emissions to zero right now, we'd potentially see reductions in warming within 10 years.

We can tell where methane comes from

To back up a little bit, it's important to know a few things about the methane in our atmosphere.

Broadly, it comes from two sources:

"Biogenic methane" comes from things like plants, animals and wetlands, and scientists can identify it in the atmosphere because it contains a signature carbon-14 isotope.

"Fossil methane" was buried long ago before being released into the atmosphere as a result of either human activity (from burning fossil fuels) or naturally (from geological gas seeps or certain types of volcanoes).

We can recognise fossil methane because it doesn't carry the carbon-14 isotope.

But up until now, we haven't had a good handle on what proportion of the fossil methane emissions are the result of human activity, as opposed to natural activity.

Humans actually emitting more than 96 per cent of fossil methane

The total annual emission of fossil methane (from both natural and human activity) is estimated to be between 172 and 195 million tonnes.

Previous estimates calculated that between 40 and 60 million tonnes, or 25-34 per cent, came from natural sources.

But that relied on error-prone "bottom-up" methods where measurements were taken at a number of methane seepage sites, and then extrapolated to get a figure for the entire globe.

Bubbles coming out of the seafloor.

Fossil methane emissions from natural sources are dwarfed by those from human sources, new research finds. (Supplied: NOAA)
Now, researchers have used Greenland ice cores to conclude that those estimates for natural fossil methane were too high — by a factor of 10.

To get their findings, the researchers looked at ice core samples dating from just before the Industrial Revolution.

Using new technology from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), they were able to analyse the trace amount of fossil methane trapped in the annual layers of ice, Dr Etheridge said.

"In the pre industrial [years] we found between 1 and 5 million tonnes of fossil methane [per annum], whereas previously it was estimated at up to 40 [million tonnes]."

And that level of natural fossil methane emissions would not have changed much between then and now, he said.

"If you go back before the Anthropocene period — 1850 — [to now] those emissions sources should be steady."

What that means is that if you subtract the 1-5 million tonnes of natural fossil methane emissions from the 172 -195 million tonnes of total annual emissions, you're left with the human contribution: between 96 and more than 99 per cent.

Although there are complex measurements involved, this method of calculating our emissions has merit, according to Peter Rayner from the University of Melbourne's Clean Air and Urban Landscapes hub.

"The difference with current estimates is pretty stark, and I think this is probably a more reliable technique," said Professor Rayner, who wasn't involved in the study.

The big 'but'

We can tell whether methane comes from fossil fuels by the presence or absence of carbon-14. (Supplied: Pixabay/jwvein)
Professor Rayner shares the view that the findings have positive implications.

"If [this is correct] this is good news, since we can do a lot more about the fossil fuel source than the geological source," he said.

However, the biggest sources of fossil methane emissions are oil and gas and coal.

And fossil methane only makes up about 30 per cent of total atmospheric methane.

ABC Science on YouTube

The rest, biogenic methane, comes from agriculture and other natural sources like water bodies.

For this to be good news it would require a massive concerted global effort to get methane emissions down.

And while methane is the second most significant greenhouse gas, contributing about 16 per cent of warming, Professor Etheridge emphasised that reducing carbon dioxide emissions is still the greatest priority for tackling long-term climate change.

"We're all pretty hyper-sensitised by what's happening in the climate system. Especially seeing what's happened [with bushfires] in the last few months," he said.

"And we're all looking for solutions. The solution isn't one single thing — it's not nuclear, it's not gas, it's not solar. It's a combination of everything. Whatever works."

The first thing to understand it this.....none of these articles says measured methane is going up any faster than we previously thought. The science is not even about that.

All this new research tells us.......assuming the results turn out to be valid...which is probable, but not a info needs to be that the methane we are measuring is coming more from human sources than we thought.

Same AMOUNT of change at all.....just that the SOURCE of the methane we've been measuring is more from industrial civilization and less than from naturally occurring emitters......that's IT.

And so the second article makes a good point...which is that we could do more to lower methane if we changed the way we drill for oil...and if we did other things to control methane's a valid take-away.

And...the new research would tend to explain something that's been misunderstood...which is getting to why observed methane has been lower than expected, even though the ice is melting and permafrost is emitting some methane.

Methane is damned complicated. No newspaper article gets deep into it. I will write something about methane in my climate thread......   :)

All these methane articles were based on this one below. FYI.

« Last Edit: February 20, 2020, 09:36:11 AM by Eddie »
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.


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