Air Quality

Published on June 30th, 2011 | by Glenn Meyers


Global Methane Initiative Moves Forward

June 30th, 2011 by  

Photo: Josh Sommers

Carbon dioxide isn’t the sole contributor to global warming and climate change. An even larger and more dangerous chemical is methane, the abundant naturally occurring gas that can be found almost anywhere — from coal mines to cow farts and composting piles.

To this end, the Global Methane Initiative (GMI) reports that an enhanced global focus on methane is critical for furthering an international response to the real threats of climate change.  GMI gets right to the point: “Methane is a potent and short-lived greenhouse gas whose emissions currently account for over one-third of today’s atmospheric warming.”

The organization points out that numerous commercially proven technologies exist that can reduce or eliminate methane emissions while providing cost-effective clean energy.  The practices of Waste Management (WM) at some landfills in converting waste methane to electricity or liquid fuels provide two shining examples.

Making sound a solid economic platform part of managing methane has helped create market traction. Although actual numbers haven’t been posted, WM at the Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site (DADS) launched the Denver program by producing enough electricity from landfill methane to fuel almost 3,000 homes – and that was over three years ago. The volume has no doubt increased by now – and the global climate has benefitted.

GMI says that its Methane to Markets Partnership, founded in 2004, has served as an important international initiative to focus global attention on the importance of reducing methane emissions. “But we can and must do more,” GMI adds.

Among the key strategies in the Methane to Markets Partnership are efforts to initiate methane abatement and avoidance programs from sources like municipal wastewater, and encouraging all Partner countries to coordinate methane reduction efforts at home and abroad.

GMI reports that the Methane to Markets Partnership has successfully generated methane reduction projects in the agriculture, coal mining, landfill, and oil & natural gas industries. Accomplishments include:

  • Building international cooperation on methane mitigation among Partner Building international cooperation on methane mitigation among Partner countries, including all top 10 methane-emitting nations.
  • Supporting more than 300 projects that when fully implemented will reduce 60 MMTCO2E/year.
  • Leveraging the resources and expertise of over 1,000 Project Network members.
  • Complementing and facilitating national actions under the UNFCCC.

Why does methane happen to be so important? GMI provides these sobering facts:

  • Methane is the second most important GHG and is 25 times more potent than CO2 over a 100-year period. Methane emissions currently contribute to over one-third of today’s anthropogenic warming.
  • Methane is a short-lived GHG and thus methane reduction plays a critical role in reducing the near term rate of warming and avoiding climatic tipping points.
  • Methane recovery and use delivers clean energy as well as improving local air and water quality.  Because methane is the primary component of natural gas, reducing emissions can be very cost-effective using available technologies and practices.  U.S. EPA estimates that by 2020, reductions of more than 1,500 MMtCO2E can be achieved at low cost.
  • Methane is an important tropospheric ozone precursor.  Studies have shown that reducing global methane emissions by 20% could avoid more than 300,000 ozone-related mortalities globally in 2030.  Reducing methane anywhere in the world helps air quality everywhere.

The significant challenge involves finding better ways of balancing methane emissions by creating sensible energy solutions.

Photo: Josh Sommers



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About the Author

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

  • Burt1423

    just some scientific information.

  • Burt1423

    If you want to believe in Global Warming. (Not that the earth doesn’t change temperature, but that change is cyclic and I don’t know there is anything we can do about it.) I remember in the early 1970s they thought we were heading into an ice age, and then later we had global warming. I notice lately that they are more and more starting to refer to it as climate change. So the first question I always ask people is; what is the mean temperature of earth anyway? And the second is; what is the largest producer of CFC gas on the planet? The first most can’t answer and the second most people think of some kind of industry, or cow farts, or something like that. But the largest producer of CFC gas on the planet is the Ocean, I am not sure if anyone knows how much it produces as Methane. (Methane is a CFC gas.) Also as far as the Ozone layer is concerned, as the Ozone thins out it allows more Ultra Violet rays from the Sun to penetrate into the atmosphere. As those rays strike Oxygen molecules, it changes Oxygen O2 into Ozone O3 so the layer is self-repairing. (Also O3 is very reactive because of the extra Oxygen so it will react with anything it can to change back into O2.) Not that we shouldn’t be more responsible with our environment, but I don’t believe we are headed for emanate demise. I am all for solar and wind power, but I think we need to let the free market lead the way instead of spending tax dollars. Let someone build a better mouse trap and people will beat a path to their door. If we fund them with tax dollars there is no incentive for them to make it efficient and profitable.

  • Pingback: Wallabies Could Solve Global Cow Methane Problem – CleanTechnica: Cleantech innovation news and views()

  • I often wondered why we don’t use the methane gas to produce heat for steam to generate electriciy. Drive by any refinery, and you always see a huge flame of gas being burned off into the air. WHY? Or drive by many of numerous landfills and you will see multiple pipe protruding from the ground, with burning gas.

    OT here is an interesting article about converting CO2 into methanol:

  • Notehead

    In one bullet point you state that methane is “25 times more potent than CO2 over a 100-year period” and in the next you say that it is a “short-lived GHG”. Umm… huh?

    • Anonymous

      You need a time frame when comparing the power of different GHGs, since they
      have diff life spans. 100 years is a common one to use

  • Anonymous

    It’s actually burbs, not farts.

  • Everyday new research papers are out and new stories are told about “Global Warming”. I realize that while talking about global warming we tend to avoid discussing few major causes of Global Warming, I happened to watch this documentary “Meat The Truth” in online film festival “Green Unplugged” this documentary made me aware of few other things about global Warming which I never thought would be contributing so much towards it

    I would suggest everyone to watch this documentary.

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