Something always goes unnoticed against CO2, but methane, CH4, which expels the use of natural gas, livestock and waste is an important part of the climate crisis. The UN has just focused on this greenhouse gas: its presence in the atmosphere must be drastically cut in just ten years because, in addition, that would “rapidly reduce the rate of global warming,” according to the published report this Thursday by the international organization.
CH4 heats the Earth up to 86 times more than CO2, but, at the same time, its greatest effect lasts only for a couple of decades compared to the hundreds of years that carbon dioxide remains forming a gaseous crust in the atmosphere. More than half of methane emissions are produced by human activities, so its concentration in the air has doubled during the industrial age. The necessary emission cut calculated by the UN Panel of Experts is 45% by 2030 if global warming is to be limited to 1.5ºC: about 180 million tons per year.
The warning is clear: to achieve the necessary reductions in this gas, “specific strategies for methane must be implemented.” As CH4 is short-lived, “taking action now can quickly lower its atmospheric concentration, resulting in a rapid reduction in the greenhouse effect.”
So reducing emissions is crucial, but where do you come from? The UN study explains that there are three fundamental fields: fossil fuels, waste and the agro-livestock sector. Attacking the expulsion of methane “is the best lever” to face global warming, concludes the UN, which assures that complying with this compound would limit the rise in temperature of the planet by 0.3ºC as early as 2045.
The field of fossil fuels (32% of the methane expelled) has the greatest potential to achieve mitigation objectives. The main focus is natural gas. “It is relatively easy to reduce emissions in the production and transport chain,” the report analyzes.
The truth is that this fuel has benefited from the fact that, when burned, 40% less CO2 is emitted than, for example, with coal. “ANDs the fossil fuel with the lowest environmental impact of all those used “, he explains the guide of the Ministry of Ecological Transition. But, with methane, things change.
Methane Leaks in the natural gas production and supply chain, they make the final emissions attributable to this fuel much higher than what was initially believed: up to 60% higher, according to a study on the US hydrocarbon sector. published in the magazine Science.
The coordinator of the Ecologistas en Acción gas campaign, Sagrario Monedero, explains that the problem of natural gas with methane “has been hidden a lot, so that it has come to sell like a clean fuel when it is not. “Monedero admits that this gas has a role to play in the ecological transition:” We are leaving coal and there is a transition period that can be covered with gas for a few years. “But he criticizes a” policy. of fait accompli that takes for granted that it has to be used widely, for example, in cities. A transition period does not match with 20 or 30-year investment plans when we have to get off gas as soon as possible. ”
The UN report agrees with this analysis since it considers that “the expansion of infrastructures for natural gas is not compatible with limiting global warming of the Earth to 1.5ºC without trusting that there will be a massive deployment of technologies for capturing gas. carbon not yet tested. ” The analysis says that the US and Russia are the areas of the planet where this source of emissions should be tackled the most, although Sagrario Monedero recalls that “Spain imports a lot of liquefied natural gas from fracking In U.S.A”.
One-third of the world’s man-made methane emissions are produced by manure management and digestion of livestock. (Rice crops produce 8% added). The main point is in Latin America and Africa, locates the UN.
There are fewer technical possibilities to tackle this source of gas. The report indicates that the type of feeding of the animals can be changed and breeds selected. However, a large cattle hut for meeting the growing demand for meat necessarily involves a large amount of methane gas expelled by cattle and their waste.
Faced with these “technological” difficulties, the work of the UN points to “a change in the behavior” of the population as the best formula. Among those changes are: avoiding food loss and waste and shift to “healthier” diets with more vegetables and less meat and dairy. The idea is to be able to reduce production, that is, the volume of the world herd. The prize for these modifications is no less: a saving of between 65 and 80 million tons of methane in the coming decades.
Technicians from the UN Climate and Clean Air Coalition indicate that the treatment and disposal of solid waste should be improved in this section. And it details the “separation, recycling and reuse” in homes, the elimination of organic matter landfills and developing the recovery and capture of gas from landfills to obtain energy. He also advocates increasing wastewater treatment.
It is precisely this entire waste sector that Europe has to improve, according to this analysis. In Spain, almost half of household waste continues to end up in a landfill, despite the fact that it should no longer be considered garbage. There is still room to move forward and, meanwhile, the methane continues to come out.