Monday, June 03, 2019

Scientists suggest converting methane to CO2 as short-term way to reduce effect of greenhouse gases

Capturing atmospheric methane, which comes mainly from agriculture, could have an outsized and more immediate impact on mitigating climate change, argues a newly published paper.

In the short term, methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. "Its warming effect doesn’t last nearly as long, but molecule-for-molecule it traps 84 times more heat during the first two decades, James Temple notes in MIT Technology Review.

The paper argues that if we could capture methane and converting it to carbon dioxide, we would "reduce short-term warming much more than we would by removing far more carbon dioxide." Lead author Rob Jackson, a professor of earth system science at Stanford University, writes, "Methane removal would buy us considerable time to address the problem of carbon-dioxide emissions."

Livestock and other agricultural elements are the largest source of human-caused methane emissions,  Efforts to cut methane emissions in agriculture haven't progressed much beyond the experimental level, and Temple notes that oil and gas producers, another significant source of atmospheric methane through pipeline leaks and flaring, have resisted efforts to tighten regulations.

The idea of converting methane (CH4) into CO2 has been floated before, Temple notes, but the paper takes a closer look at using "zeolites, a class of minerals with very tiny pores, which are commonly used as industrial catalysts. . . . While it would likely be necessary to remove hundreds of billions of metric tons of carbon dioxide to return to preindustrial levels, you’d only need to eliminate 3.2 billion tons of methane to get back to earlier levels of that gas. Doing so would reverse one-sixth of the total warming effect of all greenhouses gases in the atmosphere, the study found."

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