A study released last week that concluded natural gas cooking stoves in the U.S. alone are leaking the equivalent of 500,000 cars-worth of greenhouse gases every year is a powerful reminder that real estate owners must play a role in combatting global warming and sea level rise flooding.
Researchers at Stanford University said in the study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, that natural gas cooking stoves in over “40 million U.S. residences release methane — a potent greenhouse gas — through post-meter leaks and incomplete combustion.” They noted that three-quarters of the methane was released when the stoves were off. Around 80 percent of the methane leaked from loose couplings and fittings that connect gas pipes to stoves.
For years, the natural gas industry worked to convince the public that natural gas was a clean energy alternative. Using natural gas to produce energy does in fact release half as much carbon dioxide as burning coal to generate the same amount of energy. But scientists are increasingly concerned that the production and transportation of natural gas is leading to the release of dangerous amounts of methane — a more potent but shorter lived greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide — into the atmosphere.
A report published by Global Energy Monitor, a non-profit that monitors the fossil fuel industry, concluded that projects the oil and gas industry plan to fund to increase the use of natural gas globally would lead to the release of greenhouse gases in excess of all the coal fired plant put together. Ultimately, natural gas could keep us on track toward climate change catastrophe.
So what’s a homeowner to do? Climate groups are encouraging them to replace their natural gas powered stoves, hot water heaters and other appliances with electric appliances. For those who can’t afford to replace them, Rob Jackson, a professor of earth sciences at Stanford who was one of the stove study authors, told National Public Radio said they should use a wrench to tighten the connectors between pipes and stoves. The American Gas Association told NPR this work should only be performed by licensed professionals.
The point of this story is that people who own real estate in coastal communities that’s threatened by sea level rise flooding should certainly do everything they can to, such as raising seawalls and structures, to protect their property from rising waters, which is a symptom of climate change and global warming. But they also need to do everything they can to reduce the root cause of the problem, which is clearly any human activity that leads to the burning of fossil fuels and the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
If they have a gas stove, they need to replace it or make sure it’s properly maintained. Other steps they can take to help include ensuring that their property is weather-proofed and equipped with the most efficient appliances available today. Even switching off lights and electronics that aren’t being used can make a difference.