ArchWeek - What's Up with U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

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ArchWeek - What's Up with U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Postby Kevin Matthews » Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:04 pm

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Re: ArchWeek - What's Up with U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Postby WalkerARCHITECTS » Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:40 pm

Remember global warming? You know, that worldwide disaster we were all so worried about way back in 2011? It wasn’t an unreasonable fear, of course: the world has been pumping greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide, or CO2) into the atmosphere like there was no tomorrow. Greenhouse gases trap heat. Ergo, said both the theory and the evidence, global temperatures are heading upward, forcing ice to melt, sea level to rise, and extreme weather to come along more often. Which is certainly happening big time!

We have good news and bad news. Mainly because quite a few power plants have switched from coal to natural gas, climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions hit an unexpected 20-year low earlier this year, the Associated Press reports.

China however has more emissions so globally we still had an increase in the CO2 emissions as well as other green house gasses.

The Associated Press is reporting a “surprise turnaround” in carbon-dioxide emissions. Based on a document from the federal Energy Information Agency, the AP points that CO2 emissions have fallen to their lowest level in 20 years — and it’s not because of any new government regulations, but rather because natural gas has replaced coal in many power plants. Gas emits much less CO2 than coal, and thanks to fracking, gas has become extraordinarily cheap and plentiful. Problem solved! Or at least as the headline more responsibly puts it, “some experts optimistic on global warming.”

Good news is always welcome.

But Really?

These experts might want to think it through carefully. It’s true that natural gas emits about half as much CO2 as coal in producing a comparable amount of energy, but half as much isn’t zero, and zero, or as close to it as is humanly possible, is where the world needs to get in a big hurry. That is the real truth.

The reason is also clear: a large fraction of the carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere is going to stay there for thousands of years. Even if we were to cut off emissions completely right this minute (an obviously impossible and absurd notion) atmospheric CO2 levels would drop excruciatingly slowly, and they’d be trapping extra heat all the while. So, we have a problem that is not going away and a news report that told us half the story we needed to read.

The only way to avoid permanent and dramatic changes to the climate, argued NASA scientist James Hansen in 2008, would be to limit carbon concentrations to 350 parts per million — currently we are at 392.92 ppm (parts per million), to bring them down quickly to that level. (For comparison, the level before we began burning fossil fuels in earnest in the early 1800’s was about 270-290 part per million).

AP says it contacted environmental experts, scientists and utility companies "and learned that virtually everyone believes the shift could have major long-term implications for U.S. energy policy." We do not agree!

Although conservation, the sluggish economy and wider use of renewable energy contributed to the decline, low-priced natural gas was the prime factor, the Energy Information Agency found. The speed of the electric-power industry's switch from coal to gas surprised just about everyone. It is predictable therefore that renewable energy will also garner higher use as the costs of wind and solar continue to fall.

Despite the good news here, coal use and CO2 emissions are rising worldwide. In Washington State and Oregon great debate rages over train shipments to China of US Coal. They propose trains a mile long passing through Washington State and crossing the ocean from the there.

Natural gas still emits carbon dioxide, though CO2 emissions from natural gas in the United States were down in the first quarter.

"Natural gas is not a long-term solution to the CO2 problem," Roger Pielke Jr., a climate expert at the University of Colorado, told AP. We openly disagree. It is a better alternative but certainly it is NOT a long term solution.

The portion of the nation's electricity that comes from coal has fallen to its lowest level since World War II. This is good news. Fossil fuel is still being used and we are at 193 parts per million globally and this is bad news. We are still adding to the problem we are not reducing the impact of the greenhouse gasses.

Global warming is mainly the result of CO2 levels rising in the Earth’s atmosphere. Both atmospheric CO2 and climate change are accelerating. Climate scientists say we have years, not decades, to stabilize CO2 and other greenhouse gases.It is caused mainly by human activity.

To help the world succeed, makes it easy to see the most current CO2 level and what it means. So, use this site and keep an eye on CO2. Invite others to do the same. Then we can do more to send CO2 in the right direction.

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Re: ArchWeek - What's Up with U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Postby Kevin » Wed Jan 02, 2013 10:32 pm

A Nature News article today describes current research on the critical question of how much methane escapes during the natural gas production process.

Preliminary results from new research finds methane leakage as high as 9% of gas production, in the Uinta Basin of Utah, an area of increased fracking.

Methane leaks erode green credentials of natural gas ... as-1.12123

"Scientists are once again reporting alarmingly high methane emissions from an oil and gas field, underscoring questions about the environmental benefits of the boom in natural-gas production that is transforming the US energy system.

"The researchers, who hold joint appointments with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado in Boulder, first sparked concern in February 2012 with a study suggesting that up to 4% of the methane produced at a field near Denver was escaping into the atmosphere. If methane — a potent greenhouse gas — is leaking from fields across the country at similar rates, it could be offsetting much of the climate benefit of the ongoing shift from coal- to gas-fired plants for electricity generation.

"Industry officials and some scientists contested the claim, but at an American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, California, last month, the research team reported new Colorado data that support the earlier work, as well as preliminary results from a field study in the Uinta Basin of Utah suggesting even higher rates of methane leakage — an eye-popping 9% of the total production. That figure is nearly double the cumulative loss rates estimated from industry data — which are already higher in Utah than in Colorado. ..."

Climate Progress coverage of this news adds some useful context:

Bridge To Nowhere? NOAA Confirms High Methane Leakage Rate Up To 9% From Gas Fields, Gutting Climate Benefit ... e-benefit/

As we said online in November, the carbon benefits of switching from coal to natural gas are likely to be illusory, and the diversion of investment and attention from non-carbon renewables is counterproductive.

We don’t move forward by going sideways or backwards. And move forward, we must!
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Re: ArchWeek - What's Up with U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Postby WalkerARCHITECTS » Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:52 pm

We find ourselves in the thick and dense Age of Denial. The three-yearly OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, which compares the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries around the world, ranked the United States 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics. According to the Huffington Post As education in the United States finds a new low and as poverty in the USA expands to a record high level. A record 46 million Americans were living in poverty in 2010, pushing the US poverty rate to its highest level since 1993, according to a government report on the grim effects of stubbornly high unemployment.

Reports that the USA has made progress on Green House gas emissions are false and misleading, We are failing on many fronts.

Underscoring the economic challenges that face President Barack Obama and Congress, the US census bureau said the poverty rate rose for a third consecutive year to hit 15.1% in 2010. The number of people in poverty was the largest since the government first began publishing estimates, in 1959.

The report surfaces at a time when the economic straits of ordinary Americans are at the forefront of concern following the 2012 election campaign.

Never has design intelligence been more critical to America.
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