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          Methane: the other greenhouse gas

          Left unchecked, a single methane gas flare would have the same 20-year climate impact as a year’s pollution from 150,000 cars.  That’s right, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, which flew 200 feet above a natural gas field, taking readings from a spectrometer that shows significantly elevated levels of methane, further demonstrated by infrared cameras that reveal a plume of methane escaping from what looks like a malfunctioning flare, designed to burn excess gas.

          Methane, according to the Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org) is 84 times more powerful than CO2. 

          I write this on what would have been my longest-running friend’s birthday, Drew Thompson, less than four months my senior, who lived directly across from me when we were both born. We grew up on the Jersey Shore and for the past 35 years or so, Drew and his wife, and later their two sons, lived in a upper middle class neighborhood that was . . . some 15 miles from a sprawling ocean of oil refineries in and around Elizabeth, New Jersey.  Such a pleasant sounding town. What a disgusting sight. You might think you were near Houston; smokestacks spewing a constant tailing white cloud into the far reaches of the sky. And the smell.

          Back to an even worse greenhouse gas: methane. While CO2 is typically cited as the worst greenhouse gas, methane is actually 30 times more potent in terms of trapping heat. “New research in the journal Nature indicates that for each degree that Earth's temperature rises, the amount of methane entering the atmosphere from microorganisms dwelling in lake sediment and freshwater wetlands -- the primary sources of the gas -- will increase several times. As temperatures rise, the relative increase of methane emissions will outpace that of carbon dioxide from these sources, the researchers report.”

          This could have catastrophic consequences, as we’ll explore tomorrow when we’ll talk about Thermal Expansion, and how methane is driving that phenomenon—and not in a good way.


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