By Cynthia Kole
Methane is colorless, odorless, and invisible to the naked eye—and a very powerful greenhouse gas. It traps more than 80 times the amount of heat as carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.
Approximately 30% of today’s global warming is caused by methane from human actions. While methane only lasts a decade in the atmosphere, it traps a lot of heat during that time. These widely published facts make a great case for the reduction of methane emissions as an immediate benefit to the climate.
Landfills are one source of human-caused methane emissions. Landfills emit methane when organic waste, such as food scraps, decomposes. Individuals can have a positive impact on reducing this source every day simply by using the organic waste can.
I am an enthusiastic user, but lately my organics’ can has developed an odor problem. I turned to the city and waste company websites for tips on preventing this problem.
Placing newspaper at the bottom of the can, using a compostable bag, keeping food scraps in the freezer until collection day, and sprinkling baking soda in the organics cart were among the tips offered.
Fossil fuel production is a larger source of human-caused methane emissions. The main sources are venting, flaring, and unintentional leakage from valves or improperly sealed equipment.
Pending Environmental Protection Agency regulations, called Quad-O regulations, are expected to cut methane emissions from leakage by about 40%. Most of this reduction will occur after 2026, when the regulations go into effect.
The Inflation Reduction Act includes a methane waste emissions fee that may act as a financial incentive for fossil fuel companies to comply with the Quad-O regulations.
One of the challenges in reducing methane emissions has been finding the emissions source since methane is invisible.
Recently, substantial advances have been made in identifying methane plumes using shortwave infrared imaging and satellites. California is funding $100 million in this year’s budget for eight satellites that will scan the state, and later the globe, to locate large methane plumes.
California is also seeking cooperation beyond its borders in reducing methane emissions. California and seven subnational governments from around the globe are the founding signatories to the “Subnational Methane Action Initiative,” which was announced at Climate Week in New York on Sept. 20.
As an individual, I can use my organics’ can and my vote to elect representatives who will support legislative action to reduce methane emissions. Cutting methane emissions now can pack a powerful short-term punch in climate change.
Cynthia Kole is a writer and retired attorney. She became concerned about climate change when she read her first IPCC report many years ago.