March 1, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

A Blog for IAS Examination

METHANE EMISSIONS

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TAG: GS 3: ENVIRONMENT

THE CONTEXT: Methane is potent but relatively short-lived. Methane is a key target for countries wanting to slash emissions quickly and slow climate change.

EXPLANATION:

  • Climate talks often revolve around reducing the most dangerous greenhouse gas But other powerful heat-trapping emissions of methane.
  • Emissions of methane are also likely to be in the crosshairs of negotiators at the crucial COP28 meeting in Dubai next week.
  • Large amounts of methane are simply leaking into the atmosphere from fossil fuel infrastructure.

WHAT IS METHANE?

  • Methane is a colourless, odourless gas that occurs abundantly in nature and as a product of certain human activities.
  • Methane is the simplest member of the paraffin series of hydrocarbons and is among the most potent of the greenhouse gases. Its chemical formula is CH4.
  • Atmospheric methane (CH4) occurs abundantly in nature as the primary component of natural gas.
  • It is the second largest contributor to climate change, accounting for around 16% of the warming effect.
  • Methane remains in the atmosphere for only about 10 years but has a much more powerful warming impact than CO2.
  • Its warming effect is 28 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year timescale (and 80 times over 20 years).

SOURCES OF METHANE EMISSIONS:

Human activity: Around 60% of methane emissions are linked to human activity.

Wetlands: While some 40% is from natural sources, mainly wetlands.

Agriculture: Agriculture is the biggest culprit, responsible for roughly a quarter of emissions.

  • Most of that is from livestock — cows and sheep release methane during digestion and in their manure.
  • Rice cultivation, where flooded fields create ideal conditions for methane-emitting bacteria.

Energy sector: Coal, oil and gas is the second largest source of human caused methane emissions.

Energy infrastructure: Methane leaks from energy infrastructure

  • Such as gas pipelines.
  • From deliberate releases during maintenance.

Household waste: Also releases large quantities of methane when it decomposes, if left to rot in landfills.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Rapid cuts in methane emissions:  A recent IEA report estimates that rapid cuts in methane emissions linked to the fossil fuel sector could prevent up to 0.1 degrees Celsius of warming by mid-century.

  • Reduction would have an impact greater than immediately taking all cars and trucks in the world off the road.
  • According to IEA Executive Director, it is one of the best and most affordable options for reducing global warming.
  • It could be achieved by repairing leaky infrastructure and eliminating routine flaring and venting during pipeline maintenance.
  • Leakage is far too high in many areas where natural gas is extracted but some countries, notably Norway, have shown that it is possible to extract and supply natural gas with minimal levels of leakage.

Modify animal diets: In the case of agriculture, it is possible to modify animal diets by, for example, adding a compound to improve their health and that of the planet.

Changes to water management: For rice fields, changes to water management are the most promising way to reduce emissions.

BINDING AGREEMENT

Global Methane Pledge: A joint EU-US “Global Methane Pledge” was launched in 2021, aiming to reduce worldwide methane emissions by 30% by 2030, compared to 2020 levels.

  • Some 150 countries have signed on, but China, India and Russia were noticeably absent.

COP28: Scientists at EASAC have called for COP28 to agree on a “substantial strengthening” of the methane pledge, with a formalized reduction target of around 60% in the energy sector, in line with recent EU regulations.

Climate action plans: The United States and China have announced they will include methane in their climate action plans, and Beijing has revealed a plan to control its emissions, although without a quantified target.

  • China’s plan is a crucial step forward in addressing one of the country’s main greenhouse gases, which accounts for 10% of the country’s total emissions.

Oil and Gas Climate Initiative: Oil and gas giants have also proposed commitments, including the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, which aims for zero emissions from their activities by 2030.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/cop28-turns-attention-to-potent-methane-emissions/article67557476.ece#:~:text=A%20joint%20EU%2DUS%20%22Global,and%20Russia%20were%20noticeably%20absent.

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