A major United Nations (UN) report will declare that reducing emissions of methane, the main component of natural gas, is far more important than previously thought. This is reported by The New York Times, which reviewed the preliminary version of the document.
The report also says that unless governments take decisive action, the goals of the Paris climate agreement will need to be revisited.
The report, a detailed summary of which was reviewed in The New York Times, singles out the fossil fuel industry as having the greatest potential to reduce methane emissions at little or no cost. Unless even unproven technologies for capturing greenhouse gases from the air are deployed, the growing use of natural gas is incompatible with meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate, the authors note.
Recall that the Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP-21) on December 12, 2015, in Paris. The Agreement entered into force on November 4, 2016.
The goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep the rise in global average temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, while efforts are made to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To fulfill this strategic goal, countries are striving to pass the peak of global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible in order to build a climate-neutral world by the middle of the 21st century.
The authors of the report explained why methane is more important than previously thought in the fight against climate change. Although this hydrocarbon is a powerful greenhouse gas, it is also relatively short-lived. It does not linger in the atmosphere for only ten years before collapsing. Reducing new methane emissions today and working to reduce atmospheric CH₄ concentrations will allow the world to meet its mid-century global warming targets much faster.
Carbon dioxide is the biggest driver of climate change, but working to reduce methane is more efficient in the short term. It heats the atmosphere 80 times more than the same amount of CO₂ over a 20-year period.
The UN noted that reducing methane emissions will prevent 250,000 premature deaths, 70 billion hours of workforce loss due to extreme heat, and 25 million tons of crop losses per year, starting in 2030. More than 750,000 people will not be affected by asthma or other respiratory diseases.
Let us recall that natural gas is a mixture of hydrocarbons, mainly methane, with small admixtures of other gases, extracted from sedimentary rocks of the Earth.
Since the middle of the 20th century, it has been an important mineral, widely used in the energy sector as an energy carrier and in large-scale chemistry as a source of hydrocarbon raw materials for the synthesis of polymers and nitrogen fertilizers. Natural gas in reservoir conditions (conditions of occurrence in the earth’s interior) is in a gaseous state – in the form of separate accumulations (gas deposits) or in the form of a gas cap of oil and gas fields, or in a dissolved state in oil or water. Under normal conditions (101.325 kPa and 20 ° C), natural gas is only gaseous. Natural gas can also be in a crystalline state in the form of natural gas hydrates.