Frame on methane GWPRichard Treadgold | July 4, 2012
Here’s good news for all those who despair at the defects and sheer incompetence (it seems) in the calculation of the Global Warming Potential of methane: it’s about to get a high-level airing. I emailed Professor David Frame a few days ago. Prof Frame is Director of the NZ Climate Change Research Institute at the Victoria University of Wellington, taking over from Martin Manning in October last year. He’s given us a prompt and encouraging response. – h/t Barry Brill
30/06/2012 12:21 pm
Dear Professor Frame,
Your opinion piece in the Dominion of 22 June makes good reading, thank you. I was especially struck by Tom Schelling’s remark describing the EU’s emissions targets as indicating its insincerity.
But I write concerning your comment following the post. There’s been much discussion at the Climate Conversation Group about the calculation of GWP for methane, what it should be and what might be done to make it more reasonable. Set too high, it is a considerable impost on NZ farming, which as you know is among the world’s most efficient. You say:
Shorter-lived gases (such as methane) are not obviously as important for the overall properties of climate change as is commonly thought, and the way we count them – or rather the way the folks who came up with Kyoto ended up counting them – masks this by giving them high emphasis. [Unwarrantedly high emphasis in my view, but that would be another article, which is a bit more technical to write.]
Now, Dave, this is like the aroma of frying bacon to a hungry man. The idea that you might consider writing an analysis of methane’s GWP and the faults in its present calculation, as has been discussed at length here (see the Atmosphere open thread for a start) and elsewhere, is most agreeable. Perhaps restricting an article to methane and ignoring other minor gases would make it easier to compose yet strike a strong blow for our economy?
Would you, I wonder, give it earnest consideration? Could you, I implore you, have it ready for publication as soon as possible? Such an article from such a respected scholar in such a prominent position would do a great service, not just to truth and not just to our farmers, but to us all.
1/07/2012 12:32 pm
Thanks for your email. I am working on the metrics issue on several fronts at the moment – I’m writing a couple of papers (with colleagues from the UK) which I hope will appear in good journals; I’ve also talked to quite a few officials and decision makers here in NZ about it; and I’m preparing an article for public consumption on the issue, too. I haven’t been back in NZ very long, so I’m still kind of feeling my way a bit, but I’m optimistic I can make some fairly clear arguments to the effect that GWP is a very odd metric to use if your aim is to use a metric that acts as a proxy for climate damages and, therefore, the choice of a value as high as 23 for the cost of methane vs CO2 would seem hard to justify.