Role of Potent Methane Emissions Downplayed by EPA

Role of Potent Methane Emissions Downplayed by EPA

A new report published in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that the EPA's climate evaluation for methane is three times too low to meet goals outlined in the Paris Agreement. Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas (GHG) after carbon dioxide; however, it is 86 times more potent at its ability to trap heat in the atmosphere in a 20-year period.

Currently, the EPA follows a framework that quantifies the effects of equal amounts of different GHGs over a 100-year period. This report argues that the current guidelines downplay the role of methane in global warming because it is a much more short-lived pollutant than CO2, despite being substantially more concentrated.

Why This Matters

Right now, over 25% of global warming can be attributed to methane emissions from anthropogenic sources. The oil and gas industry is one of the largest contributors, releasing 13 million metric tons of methane per year. Reducing these (and all) emissions is critical to keeping the planet's warming under 1.5 degrees C. Government policies restricting methane emissions and methane tracking technologies are some of the ways the world can start to cut back on the release of methane into the atmosphere.

According to Axios, atmospheric methane concentrations have been occurring at a quickening pace since 2007, alarming some scientists. But on a positive note, a new study published in Science last week found that significant emissions cuts could be made by focusing on so-called super emitters of the odorless GHG

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

A Way to Reduce Methane Emissions

First, accurate data is necessary and lacking. This study is just one of many underlining that fact. However, emerging digital technologies that process climate data quickly could help improve methods for tracking levels of GHGs companies and countries are emitting.

And a 2019 article in Nature proposed a revolutionary way to remove methane from the atmosphere. The process involves using zeolite sorbents followed by catalytic destruction. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that this mechanism and other technologies could help the oil and gas industry achieve a 75% reduction in methane emissions. Nine of the world's top 20 emitting countries have already pledged to cut 30% of their total emissions by 2030, but many more need to adopt technologies and policies to ensure methane emissions are drastically lowered in the near future.

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