Chinese scientists estimate climate impact of methane leak after Nord Stream damage

(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences assessed the possible climate impact of a methane leak following the damage to the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines.

According to scientists, despite the fact that this is the largest man-made gas leak in history, its impact on climate change is minimal.

Even such a major disaster cannot affect the climate. But humanity still manages to create such a concentration of methane that it affects the climate

On September 26, 2022, two Nord Stream (Nord Stream) 1 and 2 underwater gas pipelines, designed to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany, were deliberately damaged. A large amount of gas, primarily methane, was released into the sea and then into the atmosphere.

Methane is the second most common anthropogenic greenhouse gas after CO2, but has a much stronger greenhouse effect. Consequently, the question of whether there will be negative climate impacts from this incident has become an important issue around the world.

Researchers from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences assessed the possible impact of a methane leak on the climate.

Having collected all estimates of the total amount of methane leaks available in the world media after the incident, it was found that the earliest estimates (1-2 days later), which gave volumes up to 0.5 million tons (Mt), are greatly exaggerated.

Later it became clear that the amount of methane leaked out was much less. In particular, a team from Nanjing University, China, provided a more accurate estimate of 0.22 ± 0.03 Mt based on numerous observations, including those from high-resolution satellites.

This value showed that it was the largest single release of methane in human history – twice as much as the Aliso Canyon accident in California in 2015.

Atmospheric methane

According to the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR6), annual methane emissions from the oil and gas sector alone amounted to 70 million tons in the period 2008-2017.

(excluding agriculture). That is, the leakage of methane from the Nord Stream pipelines was equivalent to emissions in 1 day.

The IPCC also emphasizes that methane decays fairly quickly in the atmosphere (unlike CO2). This means that the impact of methane on the climate depends on the time horizon.

Chinese scientists have calculated that when considering a time horizon of 20 years, the climate impact of a Nord Stream methane leak is equivalent to an impact of 20.6 Mt CO2.

This is very small: such an increase means an increase in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere by only 0.0026 ppm. This increase in concentration will result in a warming of 1.8×10 −5 ℃.

“Such a tiny warming cannot affect the earth’s ecosystems or human society in any way,” explains Dr. Xiaolong Chen, lead author of the study.

“However, anthropogenic methane remains the second largest contributor to global warming and is continuously emitted from various sectors of agriculture and industry. If we are going to reach the goal of warming below 1.5℃ or 2℃, we need to control and reduce methane emissions.”

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