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Europe’s gas infrastructure is under attack. When three Nord Stream pipelines ruptured in one day, the authorities were quick to rule out an accident.
No, it would take a state actor to blast through concrete-reinforced pipes deep on the seabed. Which one? Most fingers are pointing at Russia, pending further investigation. The Kremlin denies it, saying the US has more to gain from taking out a competitor. The White House, too, dismissed any suggestion it was responsible.
Is it a climate disaster? Yes and no.
Methane fountains up to a kilometre wide are reaching the air, where the gas will have a warming effect. The flow will not stop until the pipelines are empty, releasing more than the massive 2015 Aliso Canyon oil well blowout in California, US. Estimates of the CO2 equivalence vary widely. Germany’s Environment Agency says the leaks have led to 7.5 million tonnes of CO2e emissions, or 1% of Germany’s annual emissions. The Danish Energy Agency puts it at nearly double that – which to the smaller country is 32% of national annual emissions.
On the other hand, it is only a fraction of the methane pollution routinely spewing from coal mines and oil and gas installations. China, Russia and the US each release comparable amounts from their fossil fuel sectors on a weekly basis, analyst Ketan Joshi calculates.
What is clear is that fossil fuels are vulnerable. Any of the ships, rigs and LNG terminals fast-tracked to divert Europe from Russian supplies could be a target. Drones have been sighted hovering around the newly inaugurated Norway-Poland gas pipeline.
Anyone arguing that gas is either a low carbon or a low cost answer to the energy crisis had better explain how sabotage and military defence factor into their accounting.
This week’s news…
It feels almost naive, in the current omnicrisis, to ask whether governments have kept up to date with their climate homework. They haven’t, with a handful of honourable exceptions.
The promise of Glasgow to “keep 1.5 alive” faded fast. This week it’s the people of Florida and Cuba paying the price.
We know the answer: quit fossil fuels and invest in clean energy like our lives depend on it. Because they do.
23 out of 197
The number of countries that met a UN Climate Change deadline for updating their climate plans