Methane is a greenhouse gas ignored by most of people. While everyone is focusing in CO2, it’s almost always forgot that methane is more powerful and destructive when it comes to climate change.
This is not only Hourglass conclusion. A study from the Environment Defense Fund proves that methane is about 80 times worse than carbon in terms of global warming. Let’s understand how is this possible.
The impact of methane in greenhouse effect and climate change
This video shows in a very practical way how dangerous is methane for the envrionment and why we can’t ignore this greenhouse gas effect on global warming.
Why methane is a greenhouse gas so dangerous to the planet
Well, you need to understand well what is a greenhouse gas.
As you know, the heat that we have on this planet come from the sun. Thanks to the ozone layer, it’s not all the heat that gets to our atmosphere, just part of it.
This ozone layer has two protecting effects for Earth. The first one metioned above and, if this layer did not existed, all that heat that touch us during the day would simply disappear at night, leaving the planet too cold to human existence – and to any other species.
On top of that, there’s some gases in our atmosphere that have the super power of trapping the heat of the atmosphere. CO2 is one of this greenhouse gases, but methane is much worse.
Methane can trap 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide.
CO2 vs methane
Of course carbon dioxide (CO2) receives more attention, because it is all over our economy. Factories, gasoline, power for houses and offices. Everything is connected to carbon so, in volume, it is very bad, but methane can trap 80 times more heat than carbon.
But methane is far from being safe for climate change.
How does methane impact the environment?
Most of methane comes from livestock, that represents more than 1 trillion dolar for the American economy. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, in 2022 there was over 30 million of beef cows.
Let’s do some quick maths? Each cow produces around 220 pounds of methane per year. 30 million cows can produce any number close to 6.6 billion pounds of methane. This is enough to create some environmental problems.
What is Methane?
Methane (CH4) is a colorless, odorless gas which, when mixed with air, can be highly explosive.
This biogas is extremely well known for its energy (combustion) properties and for being produced in the digestion process of cows.
However, methane gas also comes from:
- Fossil fuel combustion (natural gas and coal)
- Burning of fossil fuels.
Methane is a biogas
Methane is a gas of the hydrocarbon family, formed by carbon and hydrogen, and can be considered a biogas because it can be produced through organic matter.
Methane and climate change
Methane (CH4) is the main greenhouse gas. As its capacity to retain heat is up to 80 times greater than that of carbon, on a 20-year scale, its effect on global warming can be 84 times greater than the effect of CO2.
It is important to remember that methane is a gas that has always been present in our atmosphere, for example in volcanoes or in the decomposition of organic matter. In other words: it is a cause of greenhouse effect, but only because of human activities.
The big problem with methane today is the unbalanced production of this gas.
According to the USDA, the cattle herd around the world was at 300 million as early as 2018.
The territories with the largest amount of cows are:
- United States of America
- European Union
Is it possible to capture methane from the atmosphere and stop climate change?
As you may know, we have two major challenges when it comes to climate change:
1 – Stop emitting greenhouse gases
2 – Capturing the gases we already release into the atmosphere
We have reached a point of high emissions where just stopping emitting CO2 or methane would not be enough.
Even if net zero is a bold and challenging goal, it is not the solution by itself.
In the case of CO2, trees and plants (terrestrial and aquatic) are great allies in carbon capture, although high levels of deforestation have made that task much more difficult.
But what about methane, which is as dangerous a greenhouse gas as CO2?
Scientist Amitesh Maiti of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has found a mineral that can capture the gas: zeolite.
This mineral can be manufactured on a large scale and is already used today in water purification and industrial processes.
Maiti’s research searched through 100,000 different types of materials to find the most suitable one to interact with methane and the result was very positive.
Zeolite can be used to remove methane from coal mines and from manure (the result of cow digestion).
This is not the only good news: the captured methane can be used to generate electricity!
The idea is to put this new discovery into practice as soon as possible, because with the melting of the Arctic and Permafrost, planet Earth’s atmosphere is likely to receive large amounts of methane that was locked up under the ice sheets.