More than 1,000 “super-emitter” sites gushed the potent greenhouse gas methane into the global atmosphere in 2022, the Guardian can reveal, mostly from oil and gas facilities. The worst single leak spewed the pollution at a rate equivalent to 67m running cars.
Separate data also reveals 55 “methane bombs” around the world – fossil fuel extraction sites where gas leaks alone from future production would release levels of methane equivalent to 30 years of all US greenhouse gas emissions.
Methane emissions cause 25% of global heating today and there has been a “scary” surge since 2007, according to scientists. This acceleration may be the biggest threat to keeping below 1.5C of global heating and seriously risks triggering catastrophic climate tipping points, researchers say.
The two new datasets identify the sites most critical to preventing methane-driven disaster, as tackling leaks from fossil fuel sites is the fastest and cheapest way to slash methane emissions. Some leaks are deliberate, venting the unwanted gas released from underground while drilling for oil into the air, and some are accidental, from badly maintained or poorly regulated equipment.
Fast action would dramatically slow global heating as methane is short-lived in the atmosphere. An emissions cut of 45% by 2030, which the UN says is possible, would prevent 0.3C of temperature rise. Methane emissions therefore present both a grave threat to humanity, but also a golden opportunity to decisively act on the climate crisis. [Continue reading…]