Climate activists continue their confusing crusade

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Appeared in the Edmonton Sun, May 17, 2023
Climate activists continue their confusing crusade

A recent story by BNN Bloomberg—headlined “Drop the ‘Natural’ in Natural Gas, Climate Activists Urge US Officials”—notes that an environmental advocacy group called “Gas Leaks” wants the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to rename the substance we all currently know as, well, natural gas.

Apparently, climate activists believe the term “natural gas” carries overly positive connotations that interfere with the ongoing crusade to phase-out fossil fuels. Hence, what was dubbed “clean-burning natural gas” by environmental crusaders of the 1980s, eager to see it taken up by city bus fleets in polluted places such as Los Angeles, should now be called “fossil gas” or “methane gas” because those terms will not be perceived as environmentally positive.

According to the story, FTC chairperson Lina Khan might be open to the idea, saying that when companies make untruthful claims “it distorts the market for environmentally friendly products” and “puts honest companies who bear the costs of green business practices at a competitive disadvantage.”

Meanwhile, over in Nature Geoscience magazine, a recent article actually downgrades the level of potency that methane (the major constituent of natural gas) has in contributing to global warming/climate change. To simplify (the article itself is too dense to quote), the researchers’ computer modelling exercises have turned up a surprising hitherto not-expected result about methane gas released into the atmosphere—that methane gas exerts not only a warming impact on the atmosphere, it exerts a cooling effect as well. Beyond that, it also reduces previously expected “wetting” impacts assumed to accompany methane emissions. Again, in simplified terms, the cooling effects of methane are found to offset its warming effects by 30 per cent, and to offset its previously expected “wetting effects” (or increased precipitation impacts) by up to 60 per cent. The authors acknowledge the new findings of reduced methane potency as a warming agent could be “quite large by the end of the century.” (Caveat: the research is based on mathematical modelling, so not to be confused with any kind of “measured” scientific discovery.)

Of course, the authors make all the right political noises to cover their behinds. “Overall,” they remind us, “methane remains a potent contributor to global warming, and emissions reductions are a vital component of climate change mitigation policies and for continued pursuit of the climate goals laid out under the Paris Agreement.” Such policy statements in a science journal article are completely inappropriate, but such are the times in which we live.

So there we have it—everything about climate change, we are told, is settled science, and we can take that to the bank based on these assurances. Methane, we are told, is too large an evil to be called “natural” yet at the same time we’re told natural gas is less a villain than climate modellers thought it was only a few months ago.

It’s all clear as mud. But by all means, let’s further corrupt natural language by pretending that the “natural” is unnatural, and let’s drop a few more dozen billions on it. What do we have to lose? It’s not like Canada’s economy is perched on recession or anything, right? Right?

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