Natural Gas Is Not the Answer, New Study Finds
By Paul Brown
Natural gas will have to be phased out along with coal if the world is to be kept safe from dangerous climate change. And that seems likely to have to happen far sooner than most official forecasts, according to a new report.
If countries want to reach their Paris climate agreement goals of limiting the long-term world temperature rise to 1.5°C, then many of the proposals to increase gas production and distribution will be unnecessary. New terminals and pipelines will never be fully used and will become stranded assets.
The authors also warned that unless countries realize quickly that further investment in gas production is both unnecessary and damaging to the climate, they may lock themselves into emissions that they cannot afford to make.
The report, Foot off the Gas, was published by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), an independent science-based assessment which tracks countries' emission commitments and actions.
The report said part of the problem is that governments guided by projections from the International Energy Agency (IEA) are overestimating the need for natural gas, both to replace coal and to act as emergency back-up when supplies from intermittent renewables falter.
IEA annual reports have consistently underestimated the speed of growth of renewables, but have also failed to grasp the increasing role of other technologies like bio-gas, battery storage and hydrogen to even out any intermittency in supplies of electricity from solar and wind, it said.
"One example is China, where in 2016 the IEA projected renewables would rise to 7.2 percent of the power supply by 2020—but by the end of 2016 they had already reached eight percent. Additionally, India and the Middle East are also seeing renewables rising much faster than mainstream projections," said Niklas Höhne from NewClimate Institute.
Changes in the way grids are organized are already happening in Europe, together with the building of long-distance connectors between countries that exchange renewable energy when one has a surplus. These developments cut the need for generation from gas.
The best-known example is hydro-electricity from Norway being used to boost wind energy supply in Denmark, and the reverse happening when there is a surplus of wind energy in Denmark and Germany.
Already many of the very expensive pipelines for transporting gas are underutilized, and expensive ports and facilities to export liquid petroleum gas will never be used at full capacity, the report claims.
For example, utilization rates of U.S. natural gas infrastructure are at 54 percent, and are even lower in Europe, at 25 percent.
"This over-investment in natural gas infrastructure is likely to lead to either emissions overshooting the Paris agreement's 1.5°C and 2°C goals—or a large number of stranded assets as the shift to cheaper renewables takes place, " said Andrzej Ancygier of Climate Analytics.
The report sees a dwindling role for natural gas towards the middle of the century because of increasing competition from renewables that continue to get cheaper.
This is contrary to the official line that gas consumption will continue to rise and is an important "bridging fuel" towards a carbon-free world.
"Natural gas is often perceived as a 'clean' source of energy that complements variable renewable technologies. However, there are persistent issues with fugitive emissions during gas extraction and transport that show that gas is not as 'clean' as often thought," said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics.
"Natural gas will disappear from the power sector in a Paris agreement-compatible world, where emissions need to be around zero by mid-century."
Doubt is also cast on the possibility that gas can be used along with carbon capture and storage. Although the report said that some gains can be made, it is an expensive technology—and even more costly if it is going to be a reliable way of reducing emissions to near 100 percent. Currently, too many greenhouse gases still escape into the atmosphere at various stages of the process.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Australia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. It is home to more than 7% of all the world's plant and animal species, many of which are endemic. One such species, the Pharohylaeus lactiferus bee, was recently rediscovered after spending nearly 100 years out of sight from humans.
Scientists have newly photographed three species of shark that can glow in the dark, according to a study published in Frontiers in Marine Science last month.
- 10 Little-Known Shark Facts - EcoWatch ›
- 4 New Walking Shark Species Discovered - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Incredible Species That Glow in the Dark - EcoWatch ›
FedEx's entire parcel pickup and delivery fleet will become 100 percent electric by 2040, according to a statement released Wednesday. The ambitious plan includes checkpoints, such as aiming for 50 percent electric vehicles by 2025.
- Which Is Worse for the Planet: Beef or Cars? - EcoWatch ›
- Greenhouse Gas Levels Hit Record High Despite Lockdowns, UN ... ›
- 1.8 Billion Tons More Greenhouse Gases Will Be Released, Thanks ... ›