Emergency? Part 4
Deal with Methane
We give plenty of lip service describing climate change as an emergency or existential threat. In response to the Climate Emergency Declaration Organization, 2336 jurisdictions around the globe have declared it to be an emergency, but we usually are not really acting prefer it. There are lots of possible emergency actions. I’m 6 that might make a major difference, are doable, but require real sacrifice and hard decisions:
- Ending financing of fossil fuel projects
- Accelerating renewable siting on- and offshore
- Fast tracking transmission
- Requiring large-scale carbon capture
- International agreement and give attention to methane
- Ending deforestation
Today, it’s faster motion on methane. (Here’s Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).
At CLEE, we’re doing quite a bit of labor to advertise reduction of methane emissions from all sectors (agriculture (livestock and rice), energy (oil & gas and coal), waste (landfills and sewage)). The rationale is easy: methane represents the perfect short-term opportunity to limit the impacts of anthropogenic warming. Methane has a relatively short life within the atmosphere (about 12 years, versus 100 years or more for CO2) and high potency (84 times stronger than CO2, averaged over 20 years). Thus, reducing methane emissions today can quickly and dramatically impact the trajectory of the climate crisis. Earth is now expected to breach the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 °C “guardrail,” after which irreversible climate cascades will change into way more likely. But with rapid methane cuts, we could prevent as much as 0.3 °C of warming by 2050. Methane forms when organic material decomposes in oxygen-free conditions (e.g., animal stomachs, shale gas formations, piles of food waste). Methane is primarily released by humans through agriculture, energy production, wastewater, and landfills.
California has established a collection of strategies that lead the world of their ambition and class. These include the Landfill Methane Regulation, SLCP Reduction Strategy, 2022 Scoping Plan, and SB 1383. The latter policy requires a 40% reduction of methane emissions across all sectors by 2030. The remainder of the world is beginning to catch up. The EU and US sponsored the Global Methane Pledge, which now has 150 signatories worldwide. The Inflation Reduction Act includes significant penalties for methane emissions within the US from large-scale oil and gas operations in addition to funding for closing leaking oil wells. These are encouraging developments, but in an emergency, they usually are not enough.
First, the Global Methane Pledge has no requirements and shouldn’t be enforceable. There ought to be a concerted effort to achieve a global agreement for methane reduction, akin to the Kigali Amendment, which phases out one other essential greenhouse gas – hydrofluorocarbons — with emission reduction dates, enforcement, and funding and technical assistance to assist countries meet the targets. Immediately, there may be insufficient international will to do that.
Second, oil corporations ought to be required to fund plugging and closure of the tens of 1000’s of abandoned oil wells within the US and around the globe to stop leaks and emissions. The oil industry has managed to avoid billions of dollars of liability whereby the foremost oil corporations sell their old oil wells to undercapitalized corporations that then abandon the wells and declare bankruptcy or otherwise dissolve, leaving emitting wells and cleanup costs to taxpayers. This can be a massive subsidy to grease corporations and a major source of methane emissions. Immediately, oil corporations have political power sufficient to preclude a change in liability that might end in oil industry obligation.
Third, we want to hurry research and testing on feed additives for cattle (such as red seaweed) to scale back enteric emissions, a really significant source of methane worldwide. Results have been promising and efforts must be sped up. The identical holds for methane emissions from rice cultivation, which accounts for 8 to 12 percent of worldwide methane emissions. Research in China and elsewhere (including at UC Davis) shows that methane emissions might be reduced significantly based on the timing and extent of field flooding and other techniques that might be adopted rapidly. Immediately, research is under resourced.
Fourth, landfills account for about 15 percent of methane emissions, although which may be an underestimate because measuring and monitoring is surprisingly limited. Virtually every jurisdiction on this planet has landfills, and methane emissions might be reduced through multiple strategies, including some that end in minimal cost (corresponding to biocovers). Motion to scale back landfill emissions ought to be dramatically escalated. Immediately, we lack some essential measurement and monitoring data, but that might be changing.
Fifth, coal mine methane is a big source, particularly in China. It might probably even be captured and used way more effectively than is currently the case. Methane escapes from closed mines in addition to operating mines, so coal mine methane capture must be a part of a no-coal future. A much greater level of capture from coal mines might be instituted quickly. Immediately, there may be insufficient will to institute the needed controls at coal mines.
With the launch of multiple methane detection satellites scheduled over the subsequent few months, methane emissions data will expand rapidly. Now could be the time to speed up motion and ambition with a way of urgency. Actions reflecting a way of emergency should include:
- Concerted effort towards a global agreement for specified methane emissions reductions, technical assistance, methane motion plans, and institutional support
- Industry funding and contracting for plugging and closure of orphan wells
- 80% reduction of oil and gas emissions by 2030 worldwide (either as a part of international agreement or independently)
- Capture high percentage of methane emissions from coal mines by 2028 (either as a part of international agreement or independently)
- Acceleration of research on livestock feed additives and rice cultivation actions
- Worldwide give attention to measuring, monitoring, and reducing landfill emissions
- Protocol for satellite leak detection data to be provided to leaking facility and for follow-up motion by jurisdiction
These initiative require actions across multiple sectors and multiple actors. Some are more immediately viable than others. For instance, the International Energy Agency identifies emissions from each coal mining and oil and gas operations as essentially the most achievable in a short while period. But we want motion across all methane sectors and an institutional commitment amongst jurisdictions around the globe. The climate change emergency response needn’t be frantic, at the least not until climate change impacts change into much more acute.
Next time: ending deforestation.