Wading through the vast sea of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data can be a real challenge. To help simplify the process and make such data more accessible, today the World Resources Institute is launching the Climate Analysis Indicators Tool, or CAIT 2.0.
The free, online portal provides data on GHG emissions from 186 countries and all 50 U.S. states, as well as other climate data. CAIT 2.0 allows users to view, sort, visualize, and download data sets for comparative analysis. By providing comprehensive emissions data in an easy-to-use tool, users from government, business, academia, the media, and civil society can more effectively explore, understand, and communicate climate change issues.
A growing number of countries and companies now measure and manage their emissions through greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories. Cities, however, lack a common framework for tracking their own emissions—until now.
WRI provides strategic advice on the development of best practices, regulations, and standards for CCS and participates in the development of national and international strategies for CCS deployment, consistent with environmental and social integrity.
Through the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP) World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) work with businesses to develop standards and tools that help companies measure, manage, report and reduce their carbon emissions.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released its annual greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory report. Using new data and information, the EPA lowered its estimate of fugitive methane emissions from natural gas development by 33 percent, from 10.3 million metric tons (MMT) in 2010 to 6.9 MMT in 2011. While such a reduction, if confirmed by measurement data, would undeniably be a welcome development, it doesn’t mean that the problem is solved.
Here are five big reasons we should care about fugitive methane emissions:
1) Emissions Are Still Too High.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and a key driver of global warming. Methane is 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide over a 100-year time period and 72 times stronger over a 20-year period. In fact, 6.9 MMt of methane is equivalent in impact to 172 MMt of CO2 over a 100-year time horizon. That’s greater than all the direct and indirect GHG emissions from iron and steel, cement, and aluminum manufacturing combined. Reducing methane emissions is an essential step toward reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and slowing the rate of global warming.
The rapid expansion of natural gas development in the United States has been a double-edged sword. While natural gas supporters are quick to point out its economic benefits and green attributes—natural gas produces roughly half the carbon dioxide emissions of coal during combustion—this isn’t the whole story. Natural gas comes with environmental consequences, including risks to air and water quality.
One risk is “fugitive methane emissions,” potent greenhouse gases that escape into the atmosphere throughout the natural gas development process. This methane—which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year timeframe—contributes to global warming and undercuts the climate advantage that cleaner-burning natural gas has over coal and diesel. (Learn more about fugitive methane emissions in our recent blog post.)
Despite the controversy surrounding natural gas development, energy forecasts suggest that natural gas is here to stay. Fortunately, several pathways are available to limit the climate impacts associated with its development. WRI just released a working paper, Clearing the Air: Reducing Upstream Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Natural Gas Systems, which outlines a number of state and federal policies and industry best practices to cost-effectively reduce fugitive methane emissions. We find that with the right amount of reductions, natural gas does offer advantages from a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions perspective over coal and diesel.
Natural gas is booming in the United States. Production has increased by 20 percent in the last five years, fueled largely by technological advances in shale gas extraction. Other countries--including China--are now studying our experience with this abundant new resource.
But the growing role of natural gas in the U.S. energy mix hasn’t come without controversy. Natural gas development poses a variety of environmental risks. In addition to habitat disruption and impacts on local water and air quality, one of the most significant concerns is the climate impact resulting from the “fugitive methane emissions” that escape into the atmosphere from various points along the natural gas supply chain.
So what are fugitive methane emissions, and how big of a problem are they? How do emissions from natural gas compare to those from coal? And are there ways to mitigate them? The answers to these questions will help us better understand how natural gas development will affect climate change.
The Obama Administration committed in 2009 to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. While the Administration is not currently on track to meet this goal, it can pursue a suite of policies even without new legislation.
Transportation is quite literally the engine of economic growth in large congested cities throughout the developing world. EMBARQ – the WRI Center for Sustainable Transport – is working to bring cleaner, more efficient transportation systems to these cities. With assistance from EMBARQ and other national and international organizations, India’s Ministry of Urban Development is implementing the country’s first-ever national urban transportation policies. Cities and states that adopt the policies become eligible for financial assistance from a new $11 billion government program, Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, to support sustainable transport projects. The policies are a significant step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving India’s vision of making its cities the most productive and livable in the world.
Mexico currently ranks twelfth in the world in terms of GHG emissions. Although not bound by Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions limits, the country is committed to fighting global warming. Mexico’s new climate change strategy proposes a graduated process that begins with GHG accounting and reporting, progresses to energy sector GHG caps, and culminates in a national cap-and-trade system linked to international GHG markets. WRI provided the GHG Protocol accounting tools that undergird the policy and provided technical consultation to the Mexican government. WRI also helped launch a Mexican industry-led voluntary GHG accounting program in 2004. WRI is working with partner organizations to replicate the model in Brazil, China, India, and the Philippines.
The first step in addressing the challenge of climate change is to define a consistent way to measure its causes. In April 2007, thirty-four U.S. states formed the Climate Registry to measure, track, verify, and publicly report GHG emissions accurately, transparently, and consistently across borders and industry sectors. The Registry will support voluntary, market-based, and regulatory GHG emissions reporting programs. The states joining represent 78% of the U.S. population, with impressive geographic, economic, and political diversity. WRI played a pivotal role in helping to convene this initiative and by providing technical consulting. Ideally, these standards and strategies will help support and provide a common template for federal climate change policies and programs.
Brazil currently ranks fifth in the world in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions. The country’s energy mix, long dominated by hydro power, is
trending towards fossil fuels, and the Brazilian general public is increasingly
concerned with climate change.
Although not bound by Kyoto Protocol GHG emissions limits, Brazil is
committed to fighting global warming. In partnership with WRI and other
organizations, the Brazilian government launched the Brazil GHG ProtocolProgram, a voluntary public registry of corporate greenhouse gas emissions.
Participants will log annual inventories of emissions and will receive training on
accounting practices and management reduction strategies. Sixteen major
corporations joined the effort, the first program of its kind in South America.
Standardizing how greenhouse gases are measured and reported lays the
foundation for future mitigation efforts. Our goal is to expand the program
and bring GHG accounting tools and training to the agricultural, biofuel, and
forestry sector, which are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil.
China makes and uses almost half of the cement in the world. Between now and
2030, some estimates are that China will erect half of all buildings expected to be
constructed in the world. Cement is an energy intensive and polluting business
currently responsible for 15% of China’s emissions of carbon dioxide.
Working with China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC)
and the China Building Materials Academy, WRI is providing greenhouse
gas (GHG) accounting tools and training to help cement companies
measure GHG emissions and better understand their energy needs.
It’s a critical step in helping a booming industry meet government
mandated energy reduction goals.
The GHG Protocol (developed by WRI and the World Business
Council on Sustainable Development) is the basis for the
program. It has been adopted by China’s NDRC as a standard
in its efforts to lead national programs to address global
warming. Our aim is to work with the NDRC to expand use
of the GHG Protocol into other energy- and GHG-intensive
industries (oil and gas, petrochemical, chemical, power
generation, and iron and steel).
An increasing number of U.S. states and Canadian provinces are enacting
regulations to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. WRI has been an
active contributor to this movement, providing critical technical and
policy advice, and facilitating negotiations.
Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington,
and four Canadian provinces recently agreed to collectively reduce GHG
emissions by 15% of 2005 levels by 2020 and establish a cap-and-trade
system. Under the plan, companies obtain permits for the emissions
attributable to their operations. Cleaner, more efficient companies
needing fewer permits may sell what they don’t need to those with larger
emissions. This initiative is the largest effort of its kind in North America.
Member states account for nearly 27% of total U.S. GHG emissions.
Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, along with
Manitoba, have also agreed to design an emissions reduction market.
Both efforts build off of the experiences of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a similar program among ten northeastern states targeting
electric utilities that WRI helped create in 2005. Carbon trading began in
The passage of the American Climate and Energy Security bill by the House
of Representatives in June 2009 represents the biggest step yet taken toward an
ambitious national climate policy. The bill sets forth a long-term roadmap to
shift the U.S. economy to a low carbon path.
John Larsen is a senior associate on WRI’s forty-person climate team. For three
years, he has analyzed the greenhouse gas emission reduction trajectories in
numerous proposals in the run-up to the bill.
“There’s a real appetite on Capitol Hill for WRI’s objective research and
analysis,” says Larsen. “Lawmakers turn to our climate experts to better
understand the bill’s impact on complex issues like U.S. competitiveness, trade,
and jobs.” Larsen’s own work helped inform the bill’s targets and timetables.
WRI, he believes, helped make the bill as strong as politically possible.
No bill would have been possible without buy-in from the business community.
As a co-founder of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), WRI helped
bring leading businesses and environmental organizations together to urge
significant and mandatory regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. USCAP
recommendations helped shape the bill’s provisions and were widely cited in
Congress as a basis for the legislation.