On August 4, 2016, PA IPL member William Lochstet delivered the following testimony on the topic of methane emissions to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee.
The EPA has found that the current and projected concentrations of the six greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations through climate change.
Our climate is a common good we share with our neighbors. Many religious traditions address the question of who is my neighbor. Christianity suggests that even persons normally rejected by society are actually neighbors. The Pope recently wrote of the earth as our common home. Native American tradition suggests that neighbors extend seven generations into the future. We are all brothers and sisters together now, in the past and into the future. What we put into the atmosphere today will have effects years and centuries into the future.
We had hoped to reduce global warming by replacing coal with natural gas since it results in less carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of energy produced, when burned. But, we find that so much methane is released along the way, that the overall climate change effect is greater.
The Global Warming Potential (GWP) of methane and CO2 need to be understood in relation to time. When CO2 is released into the atmosphere, it stays there for a long time, and produces a steady warming effect. Methane in air undergoes chemical reactions on a time scale of about 12 years, which ultimately produces CO2 and water vapor. A methane release has a huge warming effect in the beginning, but is equal to CO2 after several decades. The Global Warming Potential for methane is between 84 and 87 over 20 years, according to EPA. This can have a huge effect on the weather events that you and I will experience in the next 10 or 20 years. This is important for immediate disaster preparedness. It is important to present global warming projections in both 100-year and 20-year time frames.
We need to reduce methane emissions by half very quickly. The Natural Gas STAR Program is voluntary, and therefore will not succeed. California is considering a 45% reduction in greenhouse gases emissions, below 2012 levels by 2025.
Lastly, the United Church of Christ at its National meeting last June adopted a resolution calling for the complete transition to renewable energy by 2040.