As the UNFCCC at last starts to focus more closely on short-term targets, there is a certain invisible and odourless greenhouse gas that no one is taking quite seriously enough: methane.
We aren’t just talking about cow farts here. The massive gas infrastructure that is springing up as the world goes fracking crazy is not only undermining the communities that live above their subterranean explosions, but also the world’s ability to meet any short-term climate goals.
A 2013 study shows that methane is 86 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year timeframe. Well, in 20 years we’ll be well past UNFCCC short-term targets of 2020, 2025 and almost to 2035. Bewilderingly, many governments are still using the old numbers from the IPCC’s 4th Report from 2007 that looks at methane on a 100-year timeframe – meaning they are calculating methane as only 25 times more potent than CO2. If we are talking about short-term targets, we need to be looking at short-term Global Warming Potentials (GWP) too.
By that math, fracked gas has a short-term climatic impact almost 3 times greater than that of coal! Time to scrap all those new gas pipelines, LNG terminals, and fracking rigs and start a real transition to renewables.
As the world approaches dangerous tipping points, we need to be careful about getting locked into a methane sucker-punch. Hey EU, with your proposed 77 gas infrastructure projects of “Common Interest,” we’re looking at you!