New York’s war on natural gas or methane is not based on issues of cost, efficiency, and benefits, but only on an ideology built on the hatred of the natural gas industry. Thus, the policies incorporated into the Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act (Climate Act) are not based on facts or research but ideology. They are, in a word, irrational. This page references facts and research that contradict the selective “science” used to vilify natural gas in the Climate Act.
Viewed through a pragmatic lens, the New York obsession with eliminating natural gas is irrational. Increased use of natural gas has been responsible for most electric generation emission reductions observed in the state. Natural gas provides efficient, resilient, and safe energy to homes and businesses. Not so long ago the idea that natural gas could also be used a bridge fuel until the aspirational “green” generating resources and energy storage technologies could be tested at the scale needed, perform like a natural gas fired generating unit, and provide power at a similar cost, was generally accepted as a rational approach.
That this vilification of methane is based on mis-understanding of chemistry and radiations physics is particularly troubling. The relative impact of methane and carbon dioxide emissions on longwave radiation that causes the greenhouse gas effect is a function of the following:
- Changes to radiation effects occur on a molecule-by-molecule basis in the atmosphere
- The Climate Act tracks emissions by weight. In the atmosphere CO2 is more than two orders of magnitude more abundant than CH4 on a molecular basis.
- The Climate Act uses the global warming potential that estimates the mid-range, long-term warming potential of CH4 is 32 times that of CO2. However, that equivalence is for equal weights of the two gases!
- Methane emissions on a molecular basis are increasing at a rate of 0.58% of CO2 increases
- Using a molecular basis (parts per million-volume mole-fraction) to account for the lighter CH4 molecule reveals that the annual contribution to warming is a fraction of that claimed for CO2 and, therefore, methane emissions have insignificant effects.
- There is another molecular consideration ignored in the Climate Act. Each greenhouse gas affects outgoing radiation differently across the bell-shaped radiation spectrum One of the reasons that CO2 is considered the most important is that its effect is coincides with the peak of the bell shape. On the other hand, the effect of CH4 is down in the tail of the bell shape. As a result, the effect of CH4 is on the order of only 20% of the effect of CO2.
- Andy May’s excellent summarization of Wijngaarden and Happer’s important paper “Dependence of Earth’s Thermal Radiation on Five Most Abundant Greenhouse Gases” explains that the greenhouse effect of methane is not only related to the effect on longwave radiation itself but also the concentration in the atmosphere. Because the atmospheric concentration of methane is so small doubling concentrations change the “outgoing forcing by less than one percent”. In other words, doubling emissions or cutting emissions in half of methane will have no measurable effect on global warming itself.
- The residence time of the two gases is different. Methane only has a lifetime of about 10-12 years in the atmosphere. The “consensus” science claim is that 80% of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions are removed within 300 years. (Note however that there are other estimates of much shorter residence times.) This means that CO2 is accumulating in the atmosphere. CH4 is converted to CO2 and is then counted in the monthly CO2 measurements as part of the CO2 flux. Because methane does not accumulate the same way as CO2 it should be handled differently. However the Climate Act doubles down on using the same approach. Climate Act authors claimed it was necessary to use 20-year global warming potential (GWP) values because methane is estimated to be 28 to 36 greater than carbon dioxide for a 100-year time horizon but 84-87 greater GWP over a 20-year period.
Methane Cannot Have a Significant Greenhouse Effect
- Methane and Climate summarizes an extensive paper, Infrared Forcing of Greenhouse Gases by van Wijngaarden & Happer, that uses measurements to calculate the potential impacts of methane. The following posts present simpler summaries:
- New York’s Irrational and Unsupportable Methane Obsession argues that methane cannot have a significant effect on the greenhouse effect because of its physical characteristics
- Why there’s no need to panic about methane in the atmosphere shows that the obsession about methane emissions is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of basic physics
- The Misguided Crusade to Reduce Anthropogenic Methane Emissions notes that the global warming potential metric used to compare methane effects and CO2 effects erroneously compares impacts on the basis of mass. The proper measure of the potential warming is the relative number of molecules, or the mole fraction, not the bulk mass (molecular weight). If this factor is considered methane impacts are at least 64% less than that alleged by the Climate Act.
- Methane: Much Ado About Nothing explains that the saturation effect minimizes the effect of methane on global warming
- Methane: The Irrelevant Greenhouse Gas – Water vapor has already absorbed the very same infrared radiation that Methane might have absorbed.
- Facts About Methane Ignored to Support Climate Narrative explains that methane only impacts the greenhouse effect in two very narrow absorption bands.
- The CLCPA’s Fundamental Flaw shows why the 20-year global warming potential approach in the Climate Act is fundamentally flawed
- Feedback from Myles Allen – Comments on EU Methane Strategy argues that the short residence time of methane relative to carbon dioxide means that the emissions balance is important.
- New York’s Irrational and Unsupportable Methane Obsession explains that NY policy is flawed because methane cannot have a measurable effect on the greenhouse effect
- Climate Act Ramifications of the Methane Obsession explains that the rationale for the Climate Act ban on natural gas use is based on a limited number of analyses
- Methane mendacity – and madness argues that methane is being used as a tool for more emission reductions
NYS GHG Inventory
The Climate Act required the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to calculate the baseline Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission inventory and establish a value of carbon by the end of 2020. New York’s unique treatment of methane figured heavily in both documents.
- Response to My Comments on the New York Value of Carbon Guidance documents the responses to my comments.
- Response to My Comments on Part 496 – Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act 1990 Emissions Baseline documents the responses to my comments
- My Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act Part 496 Comments describes the comments I submitted on New York’s GHG inventory.
- My Methane Reference Summary documents the references that I used for my comments arguing that Howarth’s arguments are contradicted by other analysts.
- My Comments on the New York Value of Carbon Guidance Document describes the comments I submitted on the guidance document related to the NYS GHG inventory.
- Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Methane Obsession explains why the NYS GHG inventory is twice as large as the Environmental Protection Agency and International Panel on Climate Change inventories.
- Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act 1990 Emissions Inventory Requirements explains that the Climate Act has four emission inventory components.