Editor’s Word: Tianyi Solar is a local weather scientist with US-based non-profit advocacy group Environmental Protection Fund, which undertakes local weather analysis and gives scientific steering on climate-related work. The views expressed on this commentary are the writer’s personal. Learn extra opinion at CNN.
For years, carbon dioxide has been the bogeyman of local weather change, and rightly so. However the give attention to CO2 has allowed different greenhouse gasses to slip below the radar. Methane, specifically – a potent greenhouse gasoline with greater than 80 occasions the warming energy of carbon dioxide, pound-for-pound, over a 20-year interval – has been missed.
Recently, new science has helped policymakers understand that not solely is methane a robust local weather risk – it additionally represents an important alternative to sluggish the speed of warming shortly. And the sooner we act, the larger that chance shall be.
Human-caused methane is emitted from fossil gas operations, agriculture, coal mining, landfills and different industries. It’s additionally the principle element of pure gasoline and is liable for greater than 1 / 4 of present world warming, in accordance with the United Nations Surroundings Programme.
Methane’s excessive efficiency is an issue, however the silver lining is that it dissipates within the ambiance after a few decade, whereas carbon dioxide can final centuries. It implies that efforts to scale back methane emissions provide the quickest path to slowing world warming.
By chopping methane air pollution from human-caused sources as shortly as potential, scientists estimate we may sluggish the worldwide price of warming by as a lot as 30%.
New findings from my colleagues and I on the Environmental Protection Fund counsel that rapid motion to scale back methane emissions, together with drastic cuts in CO2, may assist protect Arctic summer season sea ice by 2100 and past. This can be a important local weather milestone that may assist protect habitat for Arctic wildlife and avert extra acceleration of warming.
Methane from fossil gas manufacturing is usually emitted alongside different chemical compounds — like risky natural compounds — which contribute to ozone, one other greenhouse gasoline. So decreasing methane emissions may assist decrease floor ranges of ozone, benefiting air high quality and crop yields.
Options can be found and methane detection is vital. New applied sciences allow us to find and measure methane emissions sooner and with better precision than ever earlier than. From drones and plane to a brand new technology of commentary satellites, researchers and regulators alike are equipping themselves with the flexibility to see, in actual time, the place emissions are happening – and who’s accountable.
How these satellites are serving to battle methane air pollution
Subsequent 12 months, Environmental Protection Fund’s new subsidiary MethaneSAT will launch its personal satellite tv for pc with the assistance of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It is going to present close to real-time, publicly obtainable emissions knowledge in larger decision than ever earlier than. We’ll have the ability to watch on-line whether or not emitters reside as much as their guarantees to scale back methane emissions.
The primary goal: the worldwide oil and gasoline system. Within the US alone, oil and gasoline operators waste round 16 million metric tons of methane yearly by leaks and flaring. Flaring is the method of burning away gasoline quite than letting it escape straight into the ambiance, however analysis has proven that many flares malfunction or are extinguished and are due to this fact a major supply of methane emissions. MethaneSAT will permit us to confirm, establish, and name out these emissions extra successfully.
Present applied sciences — akin to repeatedly checking gear for leaks and malfunctions that result in methane emissions — might help get rid of 75% of emissions from the oil and gasoline sector, in accordance with the Worldwide Power Company. At immediately’s elevated power costs, almost all these options will be applied at no internet value.
After all, the methane problem extends far past the USA. World leaders have acknowledged each the urgency and the chance of methane discount and have begun taking steps to capitalize on it.
Final fall, greater than 100 nations signed the US and Europe-led World Methane Pledge, agreeing to scale back their methane emissions 30% by 2030. Since then, different nations have signed on, with signatories now representing two-thirds of the worldwide economic system. With the assistance of MethaneSAT, we will maintain these nations accountable for his or her guarantees to scale back methane.
Lowering methane emissions is the quickest, best and most cost-effective factor we will do to instantly sluggish the tempo of local weather change. Capturing all that methane may additionally assist stabilize power markets. For example, an evaluation by my colleagues at EDF discovered that if we captured the methane that escapes by leaks and flaring at U.S. oil and gasoline websites, we may meet half of the gasoline provide the US dedicated to Europe.
Transformational know-how is making this chance potential, ushering in a brand new period of evidence-based accountability and transparency, which is strictly what we have to face down the local weather problem.