Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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Record Breaking Temperatures Across our Planet

Climate Change, Global Warming

Climate Change Affects Everyone!

“The average temperature of our planet is heating up!”

By Linn Smith

I can attest, being a resident of the western United States, that the summer of 2019 was HOT! In the west records were broken in most states along with the number of days over 90 degrees. In the Northern Hemisphere, June and July of 2019 were the hottest ever recorded, tied with the records of 2016. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), July was 1.71 degrees hotter than the average.

Africa just recorded its hottest months ever and countries in Europe also experienced record highs. The Earth’s oceans recorded highs this summer, about 1.5 degrees F above normal for July. Denver, Colorado had the hottest September on record, with a record breaking 100 degrees, which had never happened before in September.

Sustainable living

It’s our responsibility to change.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrative Data

The following information is data taken from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrative( NOAA) website which has the correct data on the record highs this summer (2019):

August 2019: The average global temperature in August was 1.66 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 60.1 degrees, tying it with 2015 and 2017 as the second-hottest August in the 140-year record, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. The hottest August on record was August 2016, and the five hottest Augusts on record have all occurred since 2014.

The global sea surface temperature last month was 1.51°F above the 20th century monthly average of 61.4°F, making it the highest global ocean temperature for August on record.

Climate Change

Temperatures are steadily rising on our planet.

Meteorological summer in the Northern Hemisphere

June through August 2019 was the Northern Hemisphere’s hottest meteorological summer on record, tied with 2016. The period of June through August, which also marks the Southern Hemisphere’s winter, was the planet’s second hottest in the 140-year record at 1.67 degrees F above the 20th-century average, behind June-August of 2016. The last five June-August periods are the five hottest on record.

The period from January through August produced a global temperature that was 1.69 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 57.3 degrees (for both hemispheres, one being in winter), making it the third hottest January-August period on record after 2016 and 2017.

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

More notable stats and facts

*Sea ice retreats: The August Arctic sea ice coverage was 30.1 percent below average, right behind August 2012’s record-lowest extent. Antarctic sea ice extent was the fifth smallest August extent on record.

*Regional record heat: Europe, Africa and the Hawaiian region had August temperatures that ranked among their three hottest Augusts on record.

*Scorching season for some: Africa had its warmest June–August since records began. South America and Europe had a June–August temperature that ranked among the three-warmest such periods on record.

Is it warming up where you are? The answer is yes. Even though you still have cold days and seasonal changes, the climate average of our planet is heating up!

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/?Set-Language=ar

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Climate Change


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The Greenhouse Effect: Dangers of Methane

The Methane Molecule

The methane molecule binds heat because of its make up.

“Keeping methane emissions in check is essential to prevent global warming.”

By Linn Smith

As we battle the effects of climate change we must also educate ourselves about the changes taking place in our atmosphere. The two main components humans are dumping into our atmosphere that are contributing to the greenhouse effect are carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane(CH4).

CO2 vs Methane

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the emission we think of as creating the greatest impact on global warming. The least talked about until recently is methane. The increase in fracking for natural gas has resulted in an increase of methane in our atmosphere.

A 2015 study published in ScienceMagazine.org revealed that emissions of methane in our atmosphere was approximately 60% greater than has been estimated by the EPA, as the EPA did not include the emissions from fracking and drilling sites not currently active.

Methane leaks by oil rigs

Methane leaking in the U.S.

Satellite Detection of Methane

As stated in my previous article, https://planetearth5.com/2014/10/30/the-hottest-spot-of-methane-in-the-u-s/, data from satellites have detected the largest gas leaks from major sources. Newer and more efficient satellites, MethaneSAT, are due to be launched in 2021. These satellites are so advanced they will be able to pinpoint individual producers of greenhouse gases from oil rigs.

Methane

The make up of the methane molecule.

Methane and the Greenhouse Effect

What then makes methane so deadly to our plMethaneanet? When we hear the term greenhouse effect, it isn’t all negative. Some of it is a natural process of keeping the earth warm so we can inhabit it. The sun’s rays make their way to Earth, trapping some of the energy in our atmosphere where the natural greenhouse gases are interconnected with the energy of the sun making our planet livable.

The Scientific Explanation of Greenhouse Gases

The greenhouse gases are molecules made up of 3 or more atoms bound together loosely so they can vibrate when they absorb heat. This keeps heat near the Earth’s surface. Most of the gas in our atmosphere is made up of oxygen and nitrogen which are made up of 2 atoms bound together more tightly than the greenhouse gas molecules, which are three or more atoms. Two atoms bound together can’t vibrate as three or more atoms do, so they can’t absorb the sun’s heat as it travels back from earth into space. The vibrating and absorption of heat by the molecules made up of 3 or more atoms causes the greenhouse effect.

Methane is made up of 5 atoms and carbon dioxide of 3, so methane is able to absorb far more heat than CO2 even though there is less methane in our atmosphere. The more methane and CO2 flood our atmosphere, the greater the greenhouse effect because of their 3 and 5 atom makeup. The methane molecule can stay 10 or more years in the earth’s atmosphere, not as long as carbon dioxide but binding more unwanted heat in its molecules. For more information see: UCAR Center for Science Education (scied.ucar.edu).

Methane a greenhouse gas

84 times more potent than co2.

Global Warming Potential of Methane

According to National Geographic.com, “The 20 year global warming potential of methane is 84. That is, over a 20 year period it traps 84 times more heat per mass unit than CO2 and 32 times the effect when accounting for aerosol interactions. Global methane concentrations rose from 722 parts per billion (ppb) in pre-industrial times to 1866 ppb in 2019.” Methane has risen more than 150% ppm since the 1700s. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has warned that keeping methane emissions in check is essential to prevent global warming.

In 2016 during the Obama administration, steps were put in place to regulate the fracking and drilling industries’ emission of methane, cutting the total emissions in half by 2025. Last month the Trump administration announced they had plans to loosen these regulations.

Emissions of methane

Methane is a greenhouse gas.

As these more dangerous gases are released into our atmosphere by gas vehicles, industry, drilling and heating our homes, our planet continues to move towards an unbalanced system. This will continue in the future to cause our earth to warm, weather to be more extreme, ice to melt in the arctic and many species to become extinct…..possibly even humans. So sense of urgency? Yes, because our focus on wealth by and for continuous development in the private sector, industry and government seems to be speaking louder than our suffering planet.

Methane: A greenhouse gas

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The Carbon Footprint of Eating Beef

Carbon footprint of beef

The Carbon Footprint of eating beef.

“Livestock production takes up more than half the agricultural land used by grazing and producing crops for feed.”

By Linn Smith

First of all, I would like to say I’m not a vegetarian, but I go great lengths of time without eating meat. I grew up on a farm in the Midwest where we farmed the land, milked dairy cows, grew our own food (which was frozen and canned) and raised our own chickens and beef cows (which ended up on the table.) I say “we” because my brother and I were in the fields from the time we were old enough to reach the pedals on the tractors, plus in the dairy barn after school.

As a preteen I came to the conclusion I would eat meat, but I wouldn’t eat a cow I knew or had named and bottle fed from a baby. These were the Black Angus steers we raised for beef. My mom, in order to get me to eat, would tell me she bought the meat on the table at the store. I know, this makes little sense, but it usually worked to some degree. I just didn’t eat much meat as a child.

Global warming

Eating beef and the global impact

Today, I do eat some meat, maybe a couple of times a week and some weeks none. But with climate change and growth in world population, I realize I have a responsibility to cut back eating meat even more.

At first I didn’t understand the huge impact raising beef was having on our planet, but now, unless you are a hunter and survive on meat from the wilderness (I have friends that do), then we need to understand the impact that raising and processing animals to put on our table has on climate change.

Carbon footprint of meat

Why reduce your meat intake?

The Impacts of Cattle Production

Raising cattle can be a multifaceted process and varies from ranch to ranch, but here are a few of the negative impacts on the environment and ecosystem of our planet:

1. Agricultural land usage: Livestock production takes up more than half the agricultural land used by grazing and producing crops for feed. According to The Bloomberg, in the United States in 2018, 654 million acres were for pasture or range usage, while 391.5 million acres were used to grow crops. The crops grown are used for animal feed, ethanol and other practices. Between pastures and cropland used to produce feed, 41% of the land revolves around livestock.

2. Deforestation due to raising livestock: Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased in the past several years and cattle ranching accounts for 80% of current deforestation rates according to an article by Yale University, “Cattle Ranching in the Amazon Region.” Even though there are better programs through technology to monitor deforestation in the Amazon, restrictions and laws are not always enforced.

According to Evergreen State University in Washington, deforestation for human purposes represents 20% of global CO2 emissions, more than the entire transit sector. To prevent this there needs to be zero deforestation and suppliers and buyers need to be held accountable for the buying and selling practices of cattle raised in South America and the resulting deforestation.

The global impact of eating beef

Climate Change

3. Impact on freshwater systems: 1800 gallons of water or more per pound of beef is needed to produce the meat that reaches the cooler in your nearby grocery store. That’s a significant amount of water! If human and animal consumption of fresh water is greater than the restoration of fresh water from rain, freshwater will be depleted. Agriculture, for use in feeding animals and humans, uses approximately 70% of our fresh water!

4. Pollution due to fertilizers: Fertilizers and pesticides are used on crops to feed the cattle. These chemicals are either excreted by the animal into the ground and waterways, or end up being deposited in the animal fat which, again, ends up in the cooler at your local grocery store and consumed by you.

Global Warming

The global impact of eating beef.

5. Processing and transportation of meat: With the massive land usage and food and water it takes to raise cattle, also comes the huge energy impact to our environment in the processing and packaging of meat and the transportation to get it on the shelf.

Greenhouses Gases and Eating Beef

Experts estimate that 14% of all greenhouse gases come from cattle production and the processing of meat. You can look at the current push towards meat from plants as a fad, or you can view it as a way to help save our planet. The choice is yours.

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Environmental Impact of Beef


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Cities Accept the Challenge of Climate Change

“It seems clear now that political organizations other than national governments are going to lead in taking actions to reducing climate change.”

Sustainable living

It’s our responsibility to change.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

November 19, 2018—–Earth’s climate has been changing from the time the planet came into being. It has gone through times when it was much warmer than today and others when it was colder. The climate of today is one that is inseparable from the growth of the human population. The industrial revolution began about 1770 AD and is synonymous with the advent of the steam engine. Steam engines burned fossil fuels, primarily wood or coal.

Planet earth is a single system in which nothing or no process exists in isolation. The burning of fossil fuels began to change the composition of the atmosphere. The temperature of Earth began to warm above what might be expected from natural causes and the term global warming started to appear in literature. Professional conferences by groups of scientists and others began to occur.

In 2015 an international conference on climate change was convened in Paris, France to discuss the problems associated with a changing climate. What is known as the Paris Agreement was ultimately approved by representatives of nearly 200 countries. However, the Agreement does not dictate any actions to be taken by the signatories. Many have done little or nothing concrete to stem climate change

Sierra Club

Sierra Club for Clean Air

Cities, Provinces and Other Regional Governments Take Charge

Many homogeneous political units such as cities, states or provinces began to respond to climate change because governments of these units began dealing with problems of flooding, unhealthy air to breath, increasing heat, etc.

Cities and towns are home to the majority of people now living on the planet. The number living in cities is growing by more than a million each week. By mid-century the percentage of people living in urban areas is estimated to reach 70%.

Groups of cities are now actively working together to reduce greenhouse emissions. As of June 6, 2018, approximately 250 mayors of American cities have officially adopted the Paris agreement. These cities contain about 60 million people. They are part of a group called Mayors National Climate Action Agenda. Among the cities that have agreed to support the Paris Agreement is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is the very city where U.S. President Trump stated he did not represent Paris and might withdraw the United States from the agreement.

building green

Cities, states and individuals must do their part in preventing climate change.

Reducing Carbon Emissions

Perhaps the most concerted effort being made is to reduce carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary gas in the absorption of energy in the atmosphere. Cities account for about 70% of carbon dioxide emissions. A major part of the effort to reduce emissions is reducing carbon emissions from motor vehicles. Another is switching to renewable fuels for generating electricity. This means eliminating power plants using fossil fuels.

The Sierra Club recently estimated that encouraged by their Beyond Coal campaign, coal-fired power plants have been closing at times at the rate of one every 16 days. This month representatives from more than 70 countries are gathering in Edmonton, Canada, to explore how to develop cities that can create and maintain a climate that adds a minimal of carbon to the atmosphere.

While some national governments, such as that of the United States, refute the whole concept of climate change and do not want to take any action, the people are taking combined action through more localized governments. It seems clear now that political organizations other than national governments are going to lead in taking actions to reducing climate change.

Planning Sustainably

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Global Warming Facts: 2016/2017

The earth continues to warm

Fight against global warming!

Those of us fighting to leave a planet that is livable for future generations…..the fight is still on!

By Linn Smith

April 27, 2017–New data put out by the EPA shows the current trend toward global warming….it’s not improving! Our planet is continuing to heatup!

2016 Climate Facts

* 2016 marks three consecutive years of record breaking temperatures for our planet.

* Our planet experienced 8 consecutive months, January to August, of record heat. The highest since recording began in 1880.

* The average temperature of land and ocean surfaces was 1.69 degrees F above the 20th century average.

* The 2016 global ocean surface was highest on record–1.35 degrees F above average.

*The 2016 global land temperature was the highest on record–2.57 degrees F above average.

* North America had the warmest year on record.

* The area of Arctic sea ice was depleted to a new record low since recording began in 1979.

* The average mass of Antarctic sea ice was 2nd smallest since recording began in 1979.

* All 6 continents have recorded record breaking temperatures in 2016.

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

The Trend Continues for 2017

* The global average temperatures over land and ocean surfaces for March 2017 were the 2nd highest for the month since recording began, 1.89 degrees F above 20th century average of 54.9 degrees F.

* The year-to-date global temperature was the second warmest on record.

Sustainable living on a sustainable planet!

Let’s hand our children a healthy planet!

Other Climate Facts

* To date, all 16 years of the 21st century were among the warmest ever recorded. The 5 warmest have been since 2010.

* The average annual temperature for ocean surfaces around the world was 1.35 degrees F (.75C) higher than 20th century average.

So those of us fighting to leave a planet that is livable for future generations…..the fight is still on!

Stand up to coal and oil

Fight to against global warming!

Fight Against Global Warming


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Urban Heat Islands: Their Effects and Solutions

the heat island effect

Heat Island prevent heat from escaping cities.

“As urban areas grow a person’s health will be connected to the build up of heat and pollution in the city…..it will become essential to build green.”

By Linn Smith

April 20, 2017—–If you live in a city you probably have noticed how much cooler it is in the summertime when you take a drive in the country. Drive back toward the city, with its concrete buildings, and you feel the great intensiveness of a hot summer day. There’s a name for this city heat….the urban heat island effect.

What is a Heat Island?

An urban heat island describes a large area of buildings and concrete (cities) that has temperatures which are higher than the countryside surrounding them. According to http://www.epa.gov, “The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C).” With global warming the temperatures of the heat islands will continue to increase.

Urban heat profile

Urban areas hold heat.

What Causes the Build Up of Heat?

As you enter a city you may notice concrete and asphalt surrounding you—-buildings, parking lots, streets and side walks. The concrete and asphalt absorb the sun’s heat rather than reflecting it, causing surface temperatures to rise. The rise in temperature also causes a depletion of vegetation resulting in less shade and moisture in the air. The resulting heat requires an increase in energy consumption—air conditioning which results in greater electrical use. This  cycle  keeps revolving—a catch 22 in which there is no escape from the merry-go-round of negative conditions from heat build-up.

Smog and Heat Islands

Cities can also cause “hotspots” of pollution. This smog can trap heat over a city, holding in the gases from coal burning facilities and vehicle emissions, not allowing them to escape into the atmosphere (the greenhouse effect). In addition, the closely built structures resist air flow, keeping the air trapped in the city, unlike the countryside which cools off as the air flows more freely.

Health Effects of Heat Islands

Some of the more obvious effects of heat islands are discomfort, breathing problems, heat stroke and exhaustion. But they can also be related to cardiovascular disease, sleep deprivation, depression and many more!

urban heat island

Build Green

Minimizing the Heat Island Effect

New technologies for minimizing heat islands are rapidly being developed. Several techniques currently in use for developing green urban areas are:

*Cut down on heat absorbing materials, such as asphalt and cement, by using more reflective surfaces for paved areas.The pavement can be enhanced by using reflective aggregate, a reflective or clear binder or a reflective surface coating.
*Plant trees that shade streets and paved areas.
*Use white roof membranes instead of black.
*Create a green roof–rooftop gardens.
*Create rooftop decks made from wood.
*Increase shade around buildings.
*Use energy efficient appliances and equipment which cut down on electrical use.

As National Geographic summarized, “Urban heat islands can have worse air and water quality than their rural neighbors. They often have lower air quality because there are more pollutants (waste products from vehicles, industry, and people) being pumped into the air. These pollutants are blocked from scattering and becoming less toxic by the urban landscape: buildings, roads, sidewalks, and parking lots.”

As urban areas grow a person’s health will be connected to the build up of heat and pollution in the city…..it will become essential to build green. The planning stage for this is now!

Urban Heat Islands

building green

build green


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2016: Climate Change, Renewable Energy and Other Things

Earth Day

Clean Energy: Make It a Priority!

“Driving down the demand for oil as renewable energy sources are becoming less expensive.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

Earth Day was a True Global Success for Climate Change

May 7, 2016—In December of 2015 a conference was held in a suburb of Paris, France to discuss the necessary action to slow global warming. More heads of state attended that conference than had ever attended a single conference. There were 195 leaders attending, which is virtually every nation recognized by the United Nations. The outcome was that nearly all of the countries presented plans to reduce greenhouse gases in the near future. The date for signing the agreement was set for Earth Day, April 22, 2016. On that date representatives of 175 governments came together again in a special ceremony to confirm the commitments they made in Paris by signing the agreement. The two largest greenhouse gas emitters, the United States and China, were among those that signed. The remaining countries have until Earth Day 2017 to sign. What remains is for the individual countries to ratify the agreement. Enacting this agreement would be a huge step forward in slowing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. The agreement was that the plans presented at the Paris conference would be in place by 2020. Many, if not most of the signers, expect to have their plans implemented before then.

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

Saudi Arabia Cuts Dependence on Oil

Saudi Arabia has changed direction on oil after nearly a century of dependence on the mining of oil to finance the nation. A number of problems have led to this major change in economic policy. Among them are the collapse of the price of oil on the international market and growing unemployment for younger people entering the job market. The sale of oil produced more than 70% of the state income in 2015. Saudi Arabia experienced close to $100 billion dollar national deficit in 2015 and is projecting an 85 billion dollar deficit in 2016. The rapid transition away from coal and oil as energy sources, and the greenhouse gasses they emit, is driving down the demand for oil as renewable energy sources are becoming less expensive.

The government has developed a new plan known as Vision 2030 that would diversify the Saudi economy. The plan would set up the largest government investment firm in the world. It includes selling a small stake in Aramco, the national oil company. The current estimated value of the company is three trillion dollars. It also eliminates 61 billion dollars worth of energy related subsidies to individuals, which have been used to support the royal family.

Sustainable living on a sustainable planet!

Let’s hand our children a healthy planet!

The Year Without a Summer

The Little Ice age was the coldest period in historic times. It occurred from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries and much of the earth experienced cooling. This past winter was the warmest winter on record in North America. Just 200 years ago during the Little Ice Age the colonies experienced the coldest summer on record. The year 1816 is known as “the year without a summer.” The year began with excessively low temperatures across much of the eastern seaboard. As spring came, the weather seemed to be cool, but not excessively so. In May however, the temperatures plunged. In New England, frost occurred every month. In Indiana, in the interior U.S., there was snow or sleet for 17 days which killed off seedlings before they had a chance to grow. The cold weather continued into June, when snow again fell, totally devastating any remaining crops. No crops grew north of a line between the Ohio and Potomac Rivers, and crop yields were scanty south of this line. In the pioneer areas of Indiana and Illinois, the lack of crops meant the settlers had to rely on hunting and fishing for their food. Reports suggest that raccoons, groundhogs, and the easily trapped passenger pigeons were a major source of food. The settlers also collected many edible plants which proved hardier than cultivated crops.

The cold hit Europe also. Alpine glaciers grew in size and advanced to lower elevations. The Thames River in England froze over many times. It has not frozen over since the winter of 1813-1814.

Alaskan Aquarium Innovation Cuts Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Many technological innovations are cutting greenhouse gas emissions. One such innovation is used by the Sea Life Center in Seward, Alaska. The Alaskan aquarium now draws 98% of its energy for heating and cooling from the sea. The center is getting heat energy from Resurrection Bay using a heat exchange system. Sea water contains a great deal of heat energy. The bay is about 900 feet (273m) deep, absorbing heat from the sun during the summer and retaining heat through the winter deep below the surface. A complex system of pipes carries heat from the bay into the Sea Life center, which can also be used for cooling. The center uses only a very small amount of energy from other sources, (2%)% and so has drastically cut the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

2016: Moving towards renewable resources!


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The Hazards of Increased Methane Mining and Use

Gas leak

Old pipes leak natural gas.

“When natural gas leaks into our air, its a big problem for our climate.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore
March 3, 2016—-Methane is an organic gas found in the environment. It is a powerful greenhouse gas, but does not stay in the atmosphere for very long. Methane is also a much cleaner fossil fuel than coal or oil. For this reason, among others, the use of natural gas, which is largely methane, has increased rapidly in recent years. This has resulted in large increases in emissions, atmospheric levels, and hazards.

Historic Changes in Atmospheric Methane

Time – Parts per Billion
By Volume
___________________________________________
100,000 BC 500ppb
70,000 BC 650
20,000 BC 350
1750 AD 722
19th Century 800
1990’s 1600
2013 1823

The New Mexico Methane Cloud

Natural gas has long been a product of oil drilling. Once oil drilling began natural gas was often found as a byproduct. For many decades the gas was simply burned as it reached the surface. Photographs over the Middle East taken in the daytime show long streams of black smoke coming from well sites. At night the oil fields stand out clearly because of these burning gas torches.

In the southwest of the United States, oil well drilling began in the early 1880’s. Here too, the natural gas was burned off. Only much later, when a demand for natural gas developed, was the escaping gas contained.

In January 2016 NASA reported that satellite data showed a cloud of natural gas in the atmosphere over the southern Great Plains. The cloud is not visible to the human eye. It is believed to have been created by years of drilling for oil and particularly during the drilling of wells where fracking is used.

Natural gas leaks during the drilling process are common. The cloud is centered over the state of New Mexico and may be a permanent fixture. As clouds go it is fairly large, but small when compared to the size of the state. Scientists believe that the cloud is not new, but may have been growing rapidly.

Over the Great Plains the addition of natural gas from cattle digestive tracts undoubtedly has contributed to the cloud. It should be pointed out that long before oil and gas drilling began, natural gas seeps were not uncommon in the area.

Methane

Methane is monitored.

The California Gas Storage Leak

Known as the Porter Ranch Gas leak, the well began spewing methane into the atmosphere on October 23, 2015. The leak developed at a SoCalGas natural gas storage facility known as the Aliso Canyon site in the Santa Susana Mountains. The storage facility is the second largest in the United States. The leak, which developed about 8000 feet (2440 m) below the surface, ejected some 50 tons or more of methane per hour. In all more than two million metric tons of natural gas escaped into the atmosphere. It is believed to be the largest natural gas leak to occur as a result of mining oil and natural gas.

Federal law does not require safety valves on gas wells. Because the leak was so far below the surface, company officials knew it would take a long time to cap. It was not capped until February 18, 2016.

Natural gas by itself is not toxic, but many people complained of a variety of illnesses, which researchers at the University of Southern Cal said were due to additives that might pose a risk—added to make it easier for people to detect the gas. Among the health problems were eye and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, and even nose bleeds. This leak was sufficient to force the removal of thousands of families from the immediate area and Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency.

Methane hotspots

Images of methane hotspots taken with a high tech camera

Natural Gas Pipeline Leaks

A second way in which the use of natural gas increases the atmospheric concentration of methane is through leakage in natural gas pipelines. Scattered around the world are thousands of miles of natural gas pipelines and almost all of them leak.

In Washington, D.C. recent research determined that there were about 6000 leaks in the pipeline network within the city. The average amount of natural gas leaked in Washington, D.C. is more than twice the natural average.

The leaking gas is determined to be from natural gas by its chemical nature. Mined natural gas contains other forms of volatile gas such as ethane and propane, which gas forming at the surface does not have. Recent studies also indicate that emission rates from leakage are as much as 75% higher than EPA estimates.

The Human Hazard

It is inevitable that leaks will occur in gas lines and in homes and other structures that utilize natural gas for cooking or heating. In many cases of leakage, the concentration is so high it is potentially explosive. Globally there have already been many cases of explosions occurring which result from leaking natural gas.

Homes and buildings frequently explode when leaking gas is ignited by a spark or open flame. There have been an untold number of such explosions. Perhaps the greatest gas line explosion in terms of human casualties was that known as the Ufa train disaster that occurred in Russia in 1989. Sparks from passing trains ignited gas leaking from an LPG line causing it to explode. Two locomotives and 38 passenger cars were derailed. More than 600 people were reported killed.

When natural gas leaks into our air, it’s a big problem for our climate. It is essential that utility and gas companies take responsibility to repair these leaks for the future health of our planet.

What we do today determines the health of our planet tomorrow.


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Renewable Energy Sources Dominate Human History

Reduce Pollution

Women coming together can make a difference in cutting CO2 in our atmosphere

“A windmill is known to have existed in Alexandria, Egypt as early as the first century AD.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore
February 12, 2016—For most of human history the energy available to our species was the strength of the individual. The first supplemental energy source humans began to use was fire. Fire was being used in Yunan province of southeast China more than a million years ago. Fire provided energy for light, for cooking, and other uses. It most likely provided these individuals an advantage in growing their population.

Renewable Resources of Early Man

The use of fire spread through the global population. It may also have come into use independently in different areas. As the use of fire spread as a resource, a variety of fuels were used depending on what was available in the region. All were renewable energy sources. In the forested regions dried, downed limbs and twigs served the purpose. In the grasslands dried grasses and stems of shrubs provided the fuel. Bones from dead animals were also used as fuel. In the Great Plains of the United States, the early farmers burned wheat straw and corn stalks for heat in the winter. Often an empty metal barrel served as the stove.

Changing Earth

An additional organic fuel source in many areas was dried dung from herbivores, such as elephants and buffalo, were used. The use of these renewable fuels continues today in parts of Africa, Asia and South America. Even in the modern world of the internet and drones, dried dung is still being sought for fuel. In India cow dung is mixed with grasses and dried into patties. Piles of drying dung are common in rural villages, as are walls plastered with drying cow patties. In fact in cities in India, residents can purchase cow dung patties from internet retailers such as Amazon and eBay. While not in great demand, they are still used in some religious ceremonies and occasionally for nostalgic reasons. The use of natural organic fuels continues today in many cultures, such as the Amazon rain forest where tribes use the same fuels as the earliest human’s use of fire.

Windmills and Waterwheels in the 10th Century

Eventually the use of animal power was added as an energy source for transportation and pumping water for irrigation among other things. This gave the people a physical source of mechanic energy. Draft animals are believed to have been used as early as 7000 years ago.

The use of wind and flowing water came into use in different areas around the world at different times. Water wheels were used to lift water for irrigation or to drain mines in the first or second century BC. A windmill is known to have existed in Alexandria, Egypt as early as the first century AD. They were certainly in use for pumping water and grinding grain in the 10th Century. Paintings of landscapes in the Netherlands show windmills in use. Both windmills and water wheels were in widespread use by 1500 AD. The additional power source increased the amount of food that could be produced and so the global population grew rapidly.

Industrial Revolution: Use of Fossil Fuels–Coal

The industrial revolution began in what is now Britain during the period from 1783 to 1812. By this time the global population had passed the 500 million mark. The pressure of the growing population had severely reduced the supply of wood for fuel and as a building material. This brought about a transition to the use of fossil fuels. People began burning chunks of coal that were found scattered on the surface. Mining coal began soon after. When the steam engine was invented the demand for coal grew even faster. Coal supplied a seemingly unlimited source of non-renewable source of energy. The consumption of coal has increased rapidly after the onset of the industrial revolution. It is the most used fuel for generating electricity. The consumption of coal increased by more than 50% in just a few years from 2000 to 2011. The use of oil and natural gas has also expanded rapidly since their introduction as usable fuels.

Growth of Renewables in 21st Century

In the 21st Century there has been a resurgence in the use of renewable energy. The traditional sources of renewable energy, such as vegetation, wind, and water continue. To these are added solar energy. There are a number of reasons for the growth of renewables, such as the hazards of burning fossil fuels. Also, new technologies for obtaining energy from renewable sources are rapidly reducing in cost. Only the growth of hydroelectric power generation, which was highly developed in the 20th Century, has slowed. This is largely due to the fact that large dams tend to completely alter the river morphology both above and below the dams.

One bit of trivia related to the increasing use of renewables is that the stadium in which Super Bowl 50 was played is powered by solar energy. Significant also is the fact that automobile companies expect to have a practical and affordable electric car on the market within five years. The future? Experimental cars and buses are being developed using solar energy. Are we coming full circle back to pre-industrial life out of necessity–trying to save the only planet we have?

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The Historic Paris Climate Conference-Cop21

cop21

A promising outlook for the future’

The concern over global warming and climate change is so universal that 196 countries signed the agreement.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

Ban Ki-moon of South Korea became secretary general of the United Nations in 2007. He surprised many by announcing that he would make climate change a main priority and added a climate change summit meeting at the United Nations in July 2007, with another set of negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009. The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 expired in 2012. Two of the countries which led in greenhouse gases, the United States and Australia, did not sign it.

Ban Ki-moon was a leader in making the Paris conference on climate change a success. The conference on climate change brought together the greatest number of heads of state (approximately 150) of any conference in history. The climate conference convened in Paris on December 1, 2015 and concluded on December 13. Cop 21 was the twenty-first meeting of the “Conference of Parties.” These are the same countries that signed a treaty called The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992.

Cop 21

There is a lot of hard work to be done after the Cop21 agreement.

The Primary Goal: Limiting Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The main goal of the group was to keep the mean temperature of Earth from increasing less than 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above the pre-industrial average temperature, even though it has already risen about half that: 1 degrees C (1.8 degrees F). What this means is moving forward in our effort to keep the global temperature from rising no more than another 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F). This would bring the level of carbon dioxide back to where it was at the beginning of the industrial revolution. To reach this goal greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced essentially to zero by 2070.

An even more optimistic goal is to keep the temperature from rising only half that of the primary goal. To reach this goal of 0.5 degrees C (0.9 degrees F), it will be necessary to have negative emissions. Negative emissions means taking more greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere than are being added to it. Theoretically this could be done by adding technological means to natural means of removing carbon from the air. Natural means would include expanding areas of forest. Many technological means have been suggested, including seeding the ocean and direct removal of carbon dioxide from the air.

Cop 21

Hopeful that we have turned a corner as a planet.

It may already be too late to limit the warming to the lower level. To reduce the rise to 0.5 degrees C, greenhouse gases need to be reduced to zero by 2050. This is probably politically impossible, if not physically impossible. The cost of this radical program would be too high and it would be necessary to take funds away from other critical programs. Any significant measures taken would be expensive. Estimates of costs to bring emissions into a negative level are as much as $100 a metric ton.

The Second Goal: An International Agreement Supported by All Countries

A second goal was to have a united climate change agreement accepted by the end of the conference. The leaders of nearly every country signed on in the end. The agreement was finalized on December 12. The group committed to keeping the global temperature rise to 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F) by the year 2100.

This agreement imposes no penalties for countries which do not meet their own goals. A key difference in this agreement from previous agreements is that each individual country can set its own goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Prior conferences wanted to set the goals for each country.

Some poor countries still wanted the richest countries to bear the biggest share of the cost or to make the biggest cuts in carbon emissions. The wealthier countries did commit $100 billion a year to help pay the costs for the poorest countries.

The concern over global warming and climate change is so universal that 196 countries signed the agreement. It is worth noting that both Australia and the United States supported the goals of this agreement.

What will actually be done to limit the emission of greenhouse gasses remains to be seen. However, if actions already being taken by countries, cities, and other institutions are any indication, there will be major changes!

COP 21: A Response to Climate Change