The famous line from Casablanca never had such bittersweet meaning as it does now when a recent posting on The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) marked a historic and disturbing leap in the global level of methane in 2018 that threatens to erase the anticipated gains of the Paris Climate Agreement.
A surge of climate-warming methane has scientists calling for the natural gas industry to plug leaks and stop venting. The natural gas and petroleum industry is the largest source of methane emissions in the United States. The Paris Agreement was built on models that assumed the amount of climate-warming methane in the atmosphere would remain stable.
There are naturally occurring sources of methane but the oil and gas industry contributes 40 percent of global emissions. Rather than innovate, invest and adapt, companies like this chose to weasel their way out of regulation through back door dealing. Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, previously as Oklahoma attorney general, held secret meetings with the hydraulic fracking companies to discuss ways to reverse Obama administration rules on methane for the industry. When he took over at the EPA, email records show he went to the White House with a letter literally written by Devon Energy that he simply tranfered verbatim onto his own letterhead. Since that meeting, the industry has largely been “at will” when it comes to methane release and could be higher than we thought.
The spike in methane emissions possess significant risk. A group of 23 scientists recently released a report that the unexpected emissions may overwhelm every other effort made under the Paris Agreement — combined.
Heather Langsner, ESG & Impact
Of course, there are natural sources of methane that are a threat now due to the melting of Arctic permafrost pressing the scientific and technical community to consider ways to keep those parts of the world at their historic temperatures.
Scientists are testing strains of red algae that could halt cow chewing methane release. By the way, the methane is released from their mouths, not the other end. This could address one source of emissions at least.
Our planet is in peril literally because Koch Industries, Devon Energy and Citizens United are improperly influencing politics. Senator Sheldon Whitehous has updated this book recently, Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy and the link to the oil and gas sector are specifically addressed here.
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