Global Warming

US judge throws out climate change lawsuits against big oil

A U.S. judge who held a hearing about climate change that received widespread attention ruled Monday that Congress and the president were best suited to address the contribution of fossil fuels to global warming, throwing out lawsuits that sought to hold big oil companies liable for the Earth’s changing environment.

Noting that the world has also benefited significantly from oil and other fossil fuel, Judge William Alsup said questions about how to balance the “worldwide positives of the energy” against its role in global warming “demand the expertise of our environmental agencies, our diplomats, our Executive, and at least the Senate.”

However, in Monday’s ruling, the judge said he accepted the “vast scientific consensus” that the combustion of fossil fuels has contributed to global warming and rising sea levels.

Fracking Not a Solution to Climate Change

A new, comprehensive study of methane leaks in the oil and gas industry is the final piece of evidence that natural gas is not part of the climate solution. Fracking and consequent natural gas production have been seen as a solution to climate change.

The findings confirm if a coal-fired plant is replaced with a gas-fired plant there is no net climate benefit for at least two decades. Natural gas is mostly methane (CH4), a super-potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period. A very small leakage rate of methane from the natural gas supply chain (production to delivery to combustion) can have a large climate impact  —  enough to gut the entire benefit of switching from coal-fired power to gas for a long, long time.

In November, another study found the methane emissions escaping from just New Mexico’s gas and oil industry are “equivalent to the climate impact of approximately 12 coal-fired power plants.” In January, NASA found that most of the huge rise in global methane emissions in the past decade was in fact from the fossil fuel industry — and that this rise was “substantially larger” than previously thought.

It’s time to acknowledge that fracking is truly part of the climate problem, and likely to become a bigger problem over time as natural gas competes more and more with renewable energy sources.

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