A Better Method for ID'ing Methane Emissions

A Better Method for ID'ing Methane Emissions - Using satellite technology

Gas pipelines leak methane. So do landfills, oil refineries, and industrial farms. And methane is a greenhouse gas that causes more potent, short-term climate damage than carbon. Since methane is invisible, identifying where leaks are happening can be a challenge. But new satellite technology is making it possible to ID the gas leaks from above earth. Over the next two years, 10 new satellites will launch and create a more continuous, high-resolution picture of methane emissions -- an improvement over past technology that only allowed for snapshots.

NASA: NASA Models Methane Sources, Movement Around Globe, March 23, 2020.

Why This Matters

More precise instruments will bring the scale and scope of the methane problem into clearer focus. Better monitoring means better accountability and enforcement for entities putting methane into the atmosphere. The data collected by the satellites will be free and publicly accessible, with no government or company in control of the information gathered.

"The new wave of satellite monitoring capability has major implications for industry and governments," a Columbia University report from 2020 says. "Our world is rapidly becoming a place in which methane emissions will have nowhere to hide."

Bloomberg: Bloomberg Green - The Dangers of Methane Gas, October 11, 2021.

Methane vs Carbon Time Scales

Methane in the atmosphere has been rising in recent years, another greenhouse gas accelerating the climate crisis on top of carbon. This is especially concerning given that methane can cause about 80 times more warming than carbon in a 20-year period. But on the flip side, monitoring and stopping methane leaks is also a chance for short-term victories.

"Methane is by far the dominant thing because you can do something today and it will have an effect ten years from now," Steven Hamburg, chief scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund with a focus on methane, told Smithsonian Magazine.
"CO2 is the long game.

NowThis: Methane - The Greenhouse Gas We Can No Longer Ignore, August 23, 2021.