Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Methane emissions from coal, oil, natural gas are 20-60% higher than previously thought, says study

Methane emissions from coal, natural gas and oil are 20 to 60 percent higher than previously thought, says a study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado. The study, published in Nature, analyzed thousands of air samples between 1984 and 2013 at 84 sites on every continent that are part of NOAA's Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.

An oil drilling rig in North Dakota; methane emissions underestimated by global databases.
(InsideClimate News photo)
The study found that "methane escaping from natural gas, oil and coal production accounts for 132 to 165 million tons of the 623 million tons emitted by all sources every year," Bob Berwyn reports for InsideClimate News. "That makes fossil fuel industries responsible for between 20 and 25 percent of the global methane problem," one-fifth higher than estimates from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the science body whose assessments influence climate action around the world, and "as much as 60 percent higher than the estimates in the European Joint Research Centre's Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research."

"The study also found that biological sources—including flatulent cows and rotting landfills—are to blame for the ongoing massive methane spike first detected by NOAA in 2007," Berwyn writes.

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