Fracking, another enemy of our delicate climate.
If your kid messes up on a chemistry test, he or she might get a bad grade. If things are really terrible, there might be a make-up class or summer school in the offing.
But when the scientists and bureaucrats responsible for reacting to and dealing with climate change screw up their chemistry, we all could all end up paying the price for the foreseeable future.
Whatever future might remain, that is.
Because according to a new Harvard study, the focus on CO2 in terms of how we think about combating global warming may have led to a serious mistake. By focusing on carbon dioxide, we ignored methane, and the mistake could be costly indeed.
We all know about the dangers of CO2 as a greenhouse gas, but methane is worse in some ways in terms of global warming, and it has grown exponentially more dangerous in recent years. According to the scientists at Harvard, while CO2 emissions have indeed declined–as politicians will endlessly remind us, between spraining their arms patting themselves wildly on the back–methane has been bleeding into the atmosphere in record quantities.
By combining data culled from ground observations and satellite data, a Harvard study concluded that between 2002 and 2014, US methane emissions shot up by more than 30 percent. By this reckoning, the spike in US methane emissions accounted for 30 to 60 percent of the massive increase in methane in the entire planet’s atmosphere over that same period.
The EPA, for its part, has wanted nothing to do with these data. At least until recently. Long in denial about the methane problem, government scientists have insisted methane emissions were dropping concurrently with CO2. But the discrepancy is big enough to cancel out whatever gains have been made under the Obama Administration. According to some estimates the US contribution to greenhouse gas emissions may have actually increased in the past eight years.
The problem for politicos perpetually ignoring reality and seeking to spin appearances to favor their chosen narrative is that reality is, well, real. It isn’t going away. No matter how hard they wish that the empty promises of the Paris COP21 talks made everything hunky dory, it just isn’t true.
And our recent love affair with fracking has likely been a huge culprit in the increase in methane emissions over the past 12-14 years. The news that fracking to get at natural gas sources was a way to get energy while using less CO2 was greeted as if the messiah was finally coming back. And it worked great, as far as the spin could take it: reduced CO2 emissions meant the environmentalists could be kept at bay, while still feeding the greedy maw of energy producers.
But fracking literally fractures the rock beneath the earth, releasing the gasses trapped there. According to some estimates, one single deposit in West Virginia and Pennsylvania called Marcellus Shale might have gas reserves so vast that they were measured in trillions of cubic feet and in centuries of supply.
Problem is, there’s methane in them there hills.
Well, not anymore. Now it’s in the atmosphere.
And the truly frightening thing is that methane is much more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.
Time will tell if scientists sounding the alarm will have any effect on policy, but if history is any guide, we should get used to our much hotter, more volatile future now, because it may already be here.