Gas stoves leak methane even when turned off, contributing to global warming more than previously thought: study | The Weather Channel – Articles from The Weather Channel

Gas cookers

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Natural cycles and fluctuations have caused Earth’s climate to change several times over the past 800,000 years. But there is no doubt that the current era of global warming is mainly due to human activity, in particular excessive emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.

Today, humanity has begun to act collectively to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions. While some of these actions require us to change the way our economy works today, others involve changes in the way we individually go about our daily lives.

Focusing on this last point, a new study from Stanford University has found that the gas stoves we use every day to cook at home contribute more to global warming than previously thought, because they continue to leak small amounts of methane even when turned off.

“Surprisingly, there are very few measurements of how much natural gas escapes into the air from homes and buildings through leaks and incomplete combustion from appliances. This is probably the part of natural gas emissions that we understand the least, and it can have a big impact on climate and indoor air quality,” said study lead author Eric Lebel. , from Stanford University.

During operation, gas stoves in the United States emit 6.8 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. Additionally, the study results indicate that when not in use, these stoves still emit 2.6 million tonnes of methane each year. The latter is also a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, although it does not last as long in the atmosphere.

The researchers believe the aforementioned methane emission figure is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of about 5 lakh cars every year, or what the United States releases every three and a half hours.

“They’re continuously bleeding a bit of methane into the atmosphere,” said study co-author Rob Jackson, a climatologist at Stanford University.

For this study, the researchers looked at 53 kitchens in California, USA, where they covered most rooms with plastic sheeting and then measured emissions when the burners were turned on and off. Surprisingly, three quarters of the methane emissions occurred while the burners were off.

Jackson added that the government does not track these pollutants in its studies, and that could have major consequences. This indicates that our current climate action plans may be based on incomplete data. As the world tries to reduce its carbon footprint by assuming gas is cleaner than coal, taking these findings into account would suggest that much of the value of using the former is lost.

The study adds that although harmful to the environment, the methane leak is neither dangerous to human health nor does it present a potential explosion hazard.

Meanwhile, many places in the United States, including New York and the Bay Area cities of San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Berkeley, have already passed ordinances banning the use of gas stoves in new constructions, which will come into force in the coming years. year.

The study results were recently published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology and can be viewed here.


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Teresa H. Sadler