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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