Keeping Climate Under Control: IEA Says It’s Not All About Carbon Dioxide

Posted on July 24, 2013
Posted By: Jessica Kennedy
 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released a World Energy Outlook Special Report warning the world that current climate change policies are on track to far exceed the goal of limiting temperature rise to 2°C. The special report, "Redrawing the Energy Climate Map," released in June is a warning to the world that we should expect increasing severe weather, heat waves, and sea level rise as our climate is already showing the signs of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The IEA's outlook for climate change under currently implemented policies around the world is dismal, but even so, the agency asserts that it is still possible for the world to meet its 2°C goal, but it will take drastic action and international cooperation.

The energy sector is particularly featured in the new report because it accounts for the majority of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. "Despite positive developments in some countries, global energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 1.4% to reach 31.6 gigatonnes (Gt) in 2012, a historic high," the report states. The IEA is pointing out that while emission reduction in countries such as the US are a positive step, there is little impact globally unless there is cooperation among more industrialized and developing countries.

But all may not be lost.

The IEA outlines four energy policies that can still give the world a chance at keeping global temperature rise at the 2°C target limit. The list includes the reduction of methane emissions from the "upstream oil and gas industry." Natural gas, or methane, is the cleanest burning fossil fuel on the planet, but in its pure state methane is a powerful GHG that impacts the climate at several times the power of an equal amount of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Methane is released into the atmosphere in the process of producing oil and natural gas. The IEA reports that about 1.1 Gt (CO2 equivalent) of methane gas were released in 2010, and these emissions were related to the oil and gas industry. Eliminating methane releases from venting and flaring natural gas during production would be an effective method of reducing greenhouse gases alongside CO2 reduction policies. The EIA estimates that if methane emissions are minimized using currently available (and relatively inexpensive) technology, they could be cut in half by 2020.

The report also lists reducing coal-fired power plants, increasing energy efficiency, and phasing out fossil fuel consumption as key factors that could allow the world to reach its 2°C goal. But, with natural gas increasing in use as a lower pollution fuel (when burned) than coal or oil, it is clear that emissions must be slashed considerably during production in order to ensure it is, in fact, a cleaner fuel choice. Curbing methane emissions would only account for about 18% of GHG reduction in the IEA's scenario, but it is an important 18% to reduce.

The methane that seeps into the atmosphere during upstream oil and gas production is natural gas that could be better used as fuel for industry and energy. Tighter restriction on methane leakage is a critical component of responsible and sustainable development; especially as we continually develop energy resources. The IEA warns in its new report of severe consequences related to climate change, and it will take drastic action to avoid such consequences. Ensuring methane stays out of our atmosphere and in our fuel supply is one action that can help keep the world on track for climate change goals, and ensure less of our natural gas is needlessly lost.

Jessica Kennedy
Energy Curtailment Specialists, Inc.

 
 
Authored By:
Jessica Kennedy has worked in the energy industry since 2008. She earned her bachelor's degree in English from the State University of New York at Geneseo. She earned her master's degree in Physical Geography & Environmental Systems from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Jessica's primary area of study is environmental conservation and climate change. Jessica is also an avid reader, painter, and guitar player.
 

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Comments

July, 24 2013

Michael Keller says

The entire EIA argument rests on a foundation of sand; namely that we can predict the impact (if any) on the climate of increasing CO2. Simply well beyond our ability to analyze because of the chaotic and non-linear nature of the climate. The 2 degree target is completely nonsensical and without proper scientific merit.

Increase the efficiency of energy production and use because it saves money, thereby improving the economy. CO2 reductions are a happy byproduct.

Renewable energy increases costs, lowers economic activity and has no meaningful impact on CO2 levels. Currently, just plain dumb in most applications because the economics are not there. The capital cost of the renewable technologies needs to be significantly reduced.

July, 24 2013

Jessica Kennedy says

Hi Michael & Thank you for responding! I agree that it is difficult to predict specific effects of greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane being emitted into the atmosphere. The 2 degree goal is, in all likelihood, going to be surpassed due to the factors you mentioned, and economics in particular. Technology is still improving in the renewable energy sector and this will eventually bring capital costs down, perhaps even to a level competitive with conventional generation. Renewables are being integrated into our energy mix more and more, but you're right in that they cannot currently operate on a grid-scale without the backing of conventional power. Any emissions saved is a good thing though, so hopefully we will continue to see more carbon-free sources of energy put online, and we may even be able to keep our warming climate to a minimum. thanks again!

July, 24 2013

Michael Keller says

If the impact of CO2 is not anywhere near what has been conjured (which appears likely from the "pause" in global temperature increases) then we have just squandered stupefying amounts of money. That money should have been used to increase the efficiency of energy production and use, which would also have significantly reduced CO2, regardless of whether or not it is a real problem.

Carbon-free is more of a "feel-good" marketing slogan to hood-wink the populace into having their wallets emptied, in my opinion.

Again, your basic assumption that CO2 can significantly alter the climate remains an unknown.

I guess we can agree to disagree, which is what a free-and-open discussion is all about, and helpful as part of the process to discover the truth, wherever it may lie.

July, 24 2013

Len Gould says

Science overwhelmingly disagrees with you Micheal.

The point of the article, that upstream producers should reduce their CH4 emissions by half from now to 2020, is about as logical and mild (and perhaps even profitable) a step as I can think of. If you can't even agree that that is a worthwhile step to mitigate the risks, then I'm at a loss.

July, 24 2013

Michael Keller says

Actually, the "man-caused-global-warming-catastrophe" is not science as fundamental conscripts are being ignored to kowtow to the left's agenda. Consensus is not science, but a religion. Continual inquiry, examination and facts are the hallmarks of science, all of which are sadly lacking in the "Global-warming" con game.

As to curbing methane emissions, industry does a reasonable job, in my opinion. The stuff is valuable, so it makes sense to avoid dumping the stuff in the air. Besides you could inadvertently blowup your equipment if the stuff gets loose.

Because of the general gross exaggeration to which the green movement is prone, it is very difficult to believe their latest "sky-is-falling" rhetoric: to wit methane. For example, we are suppose to believe that the warming climate (or maybe it is not warming based on the recent "pause") will release methane as the permafrost melts. Wait a minute, the arctic tree line has been well north of it's current position in the past which means a lot of the permafrost must have melted. Did catastrophe occur? Honestly, I do not know, but the planet seems to have survived.

Does anybody remember the big stink about cow flatulence and methane releases? Another dopey bit of crap from the "greens" (Puns intended!)

Yet another recent nonsensical bombast: "acidification" of the ocean from CO2. That is physically impossible. The best that can be said is the ocean can become less alkaline if you dump in stupefying amounts of acid, but it will never become acidic.

The point is how do we know whether to believe the "green movement" because they care more about their agenda than the truth?

July, 24 2013

Len Gould says

Micheal - " the arctic tree line has been well north of it's current position in the past which means a lot of the permafrost must have melted. Did catastrophe occur? Honestly, I do not know, but the planet seems to have survived." - as an argument, that's about as convincing as "the entire midwest of North America was at one time an ocean, so why should anyone there worry about water availability?

"how do we know whether to believe the green movement" -- that's easy. We can't believe the greenies. Instead, we believe the SCIENTISTS!!!

July, 25 2013

Michael Keller says

Unfortunately, a number of the scientists are "greenies", first and then scientists. Therein lies the rub.

Vast swaths of North America were covered under solid ice that has since melted. Methane released as the land, ocean and permafrost thawed out. Planet still working.

July, 25 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

I don't Think that it's a good idea to consider or discuss the offerings of the IEA. You see, they work as follows. They have a meeting, and the boss tells the foot soldiers that bad things are happening wih the climate, which may well be true, But which also means that if you want to keep the wonderful job in Paris that the IEA has given you, you dont discuss any mistakes that the IEA may have made about the climate, or anything else for that matter.

The lady in command at the IEA is probably a smart person, but unfortunately when the topic is energy, she is completely and totally incompetent.. Let me ask you something, Jessica, or for that matter anybody interested in this issue. Exactly what is the Point in setting up an organization like the IEA, and staffing it with persons who know as much about energy as I do about brain surgery. .

July, 26 2013

Fred Linn says

The result of climate change is species extinction.

We are seeing it already.

July, 26 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

The only extinction that I am aware of is due to the ignorance and stupidity of folks like George W. Bush and Mr Obama. If the voters knew how to look out for themselves and their descendants it would be a different story.

July, 27 2013

Michael Keller says

So we do we blame for the extinctions that have occurred off-and-on throughout the history of the planet? Another dismal attempt to use emotions instead of facts.

July, 27 2013

Len Gould says

Micheal. You're using a false debating tactic. Showing that the argument of a supporter (Fred Linn) of a scientific premise (anthro global warming) may probably in error about some hypothesis on outcomes, does in no way negate the premise itself. Argue the science.

July, 27 2013

Len Gould says

Although I also note that irrefutable evidence is starting to accumulate, eg. the article Widespread amphibian extinctions from epidemic disease driven by global warming - Nature 439, 161-167 (12 January 2006) carries the following quote in the abstract -- " Here we show that a recent mass extinction associated with pathogen outbreaks is tied to global warming. Seventeen years ago, in the mountains of Costa Rica, the Monteverde harlequin frog (Atelopus sp.) vanished along with the golden toad (Bufo periglenes). An estimated 67% of the 110 or so species of Atelopus, which are endemic to the American tropics, have met the same fate, and a pathogenic chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) is implicated. Analysing the timing of losses in relation to changes in sea surface and air temperatures, we conclude with 'very high confidence' (> 99%, following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC) that large-scale warming is a key factor in the disappearances. We propose that temperatures at many highland localities are shifting towards the growth optimum of Batrachochytrium, thus encouraging outbreaks."

July, 27 2013

Len Gould says

And as well, I note this PNAS article - Tropical cloud forest climate variability and the demise of the Monteverde golden toad attributing, hypothetically, the said extinctions to the El Nino event at that time. Only it leaves unexplained why a group of species which has presumably survived thousands of years of El Nino variations should now suddenly decide the El Nino dry spells are not survivable.

July, 27 2013

Michael Keller says

Saber tooth tigers, mastodons and similar animals use to live in Southern California. They are now extinct. Climate change of some form very likely killed them.

Man has more or less routinely wiped out animals and plants by destruction of habitat and/or outright annihilation.

Things come and go, that is the way of life. I really do not get too upset if some insect or peculiar plant buys-the-farm. At some point, we have to acknowledge the general welfare of man is more important than some specific animal or plant, although a reasonable balance needs to be maintained. To put it more colorfully: "Don't crap in your mess kit" (that would be the planet earth).

The IPCC lacks creditably as a direct result of their deliberate distortions, omissions and inability to evenhandedly evaluate the full spectrum of possibilities. Those who disagree are excluded and/or ridiculed; hardly what I'd call a trustworthy organization.

The tactic I am employ is common sense. Tends to puncture arguments full of hot air.

July, 28 2013

Len Gould says

Well Micheal, my common sense tells me that humanity is conducting an absolutely stupid experiment with the only spaceship we know of which can support our species when we rais atmospheric loadings of greenhouse gases to >400 PPMV when they haven't gone above 280 PPMV since ice ages started. Sure, humans can probably survive in some form, but it won't be the same earth which has gotten us this far. Dumb.

July, 28 2013

Len Gould says

(Sorry, sp. Michael). And especially when we have only to make use of our existing knowledge and expertise with nuclear power, solar thermal and PV to completely mitigate the problem. As well as ignoring coal mining investors ??.

July, 29 2013

Michael Keller says

CO2 is a trace gas that I believe has been been higher in the distant past. Given the current state of knowledge, there is no reason to panic. There is every reason to efficiently use and deploy our energy resources, with applications deployed where it makes good economic sense. As technology marches on, I expect the cost of renewable energy will continue to drop, widening the deployment. However, deploying renewable energy just because it is "renewable" is not a very good justification, in my opinion.

July, 29 2013

Len Gould says

Michael -- " deploying renewable energy just because it is "renewable" is not a very good justification" -- I agree with you totally there. The present state of renewables technology simply cannot justify large-scale deployment. However, whereas your response to this situation is to ignore renewables, my solution is that we should put a serious effort into research and development, especially with solar, with the intention of coming up with a game-changing breakthrough (optical rectenna operating at red-blue frequencies would be optimal) which can place solar generation on an equal footing with all other means of generation.

July, 29 2013

Michael Keller says

I do not necessarily ignore renewable. Rather, I advocate a pragmatic approach. For instance, let the Europeans spend vast amounts of money on say solar (which they have) and then come along and adapt the technology that has achieved lowest production costs as the Chinese turn it into a commodity (which they pretty much have). If the pinheads in California had held their fire until the technology matured significantly, they could have saved themselves a lot of money. That would, however, have required their politicians possess both a backbone and commonsense.

July, 29 2013

Len Gould says

" possess both a backbone and commonsense." -- and a broad streak of selfish greed. The US, most wealthy economy and heaviest polluter in the world, should expect to contribute fairly to the development process. Though I'm not saying the US hasn't, just saying it was / is the right thing to do.

July, 29 2013

Len Gould says

You guys do realize though, that NOTHING is going to change for you until you get the money OUT of your political system.

July, 31 2013

Fred Linn says

If you want to understand climate change, you need to understand the largest climate change known, the Permian Extinction.

The Day The Earth Nearly Died (Documentary)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d572KkFSEg8

A few here will watch the program through, and get a basic knowledge of the forces at work today. Most will not watch it. For the most part, these will be the loudest and most certain in their opinions.

July, 31 2013

Michael Keller says

I fail to see why the US should be under a compulsion to foolishly spend money just because we have money (although we actually foolishly spend money we do not have). As to biggest polluter, I believe the Chinese have now earned that dubious honor.

August, 03 2013

Fred Linn says

It would seem to me that the use of renewable energy is having a unexpected result.

It appears that the use of renewable energy has the ability to do some pretty amazing things. For instance, it seems to be able to reverse the course of evolution and restore extinct species to life.

In support of this hypothesis, I submit Michael Keller's posts as evidence that under the right conditions renewable energy is bringing the dinosaurs back to life.

And I thought "Jurassic Park" was fiction.

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