The war-inspired natural gas boom is undermining already insufficient efforts to limit future warming to a few tenths of a degree more, according to a new report.
Planning and accumulation of liquids
and other natural gas
– due to an energy crisis triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine – would add 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (1.9 billion metric tons) per year to the air by 2030, according to a report published Thursday by Climate Action Tracker during the international climate talks in Egypt.
That’s enough greenhouse gas to “hinder, if not catastrophically hamper, the chances of reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, the international goal of limiting the warming, said climate scientist Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Analytics, one of the groups behind Climate Action Tracker, which monitors and analyzes climate pledges and actions.
The world has already warmed by 1.1 to 1.2 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, leaving little room to stay below the 1.5 limit set in Paris in 2015.
The amount of liquefied natural gas projects in the pipeline for construction has shocked analysts, Hare said. The report calculates that if all that is predicted materializes, the buildup would produce five times the amount of gas it is supposed to replace from Russia.
“This reaction to the energy crisis is an overreach that needs to be reduced,” the report said.
One of the primary means by which scientists calculate the likelihood of the world meeting the 1.5 degree goal is a carbon budget, or the amount of carbon emissions that can still be produced by 2050 while remaining at 1.5 degrees or below. The follow-up report indicates that the planned LNG buildup alone would consume around 10% of this 460 billion tonne budget. There are about nine years left in that carbon budget, Hare said.
About 70% of planned new gas production facilities are in North America, Hare said. Europe, which needs gas but does not have it, is investing in reception systems. The tracking report says that if everything is built, there will either be too much carbon pollution or stranded energy assets that will not be used.
Natural gas industry leaders say fuel is the answer to the global problem, not a problem in and of itself.
“The global conversation has changed. And what has changed is the recognized version of the importance of energy not only for economic security, but also for national security,” said Karen Harbert, executive director of the American Gas Association at the ‘Associated Press. “Natural gas is not only essential to Ukraine’s survival, it can do a lot to reduce global carbon emissions. It can do a lot to lift people out of energy poverty. And here in the United States, we are blessed with so much natural gas today.
Former Vice President Al Gore, who has been a climate activist for more than 30 years, said decades ago that he and others called natural gas a bridge to the future because it helped wean Americans and others much more polluting coal. But not right now.
“Now I believe it’s a classic bridge to nowhere,” Gore told The Associated Press in a 30-minute interview at the international climate summit in Egypt. He said a particularly big problem for natural gas is methane leaking from pipelines, wells and elsewhere.
The Climate Action Tracker report said last year’s methane pledge “has yet to live up to the hype,” with big emitters yet to quite act, just promising.
The tracker says that since the climate talks last year, there has been little progress on pledges and actions to cut carbon emissions.