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A relatively simple process could help turn the tide of climate change while also turning a healthy profit. That's one of the hopeful visions outlined in a new Stanford-led paper that highlights a seemingly counterintuitive solution: converting one greenhouse gas into another.
The study, published in Nature Sustainability on May 20, describes a potential process for converting the extremely potent greenhouse gas methane into carbon dioxide, which is a much less potent driver of global warming. The idea of intentionally releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere may seem surprising, but the authors argue that swapping methane for carbon dioxide is a significant net benefit for the climate.
Technology - Atmosphere - Concentrations - Methane - Gases
"If perfected, this technology could return the atmosphere to pre-industrial concentrations of methane and other gases," said lead author Rob Jackson, the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Provostial Professor in Earth System Science in Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.
The basic idea is that some sources of methane emissions—from rice cultivation or cattle, for example—may be very difficult or expensive to eliminate. "An alternative is to offset these emissions via methane removal, so there is no net effect on warming the atmosphere," said study coauthor Chris Field, the Perry L. McCarty Director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.
Percent - Concentrations - Half - Times - Levels
In 2018, methane—about 60 percent of which is generated by humans—reached atmospheric concentrations two and a half times greater than pre-industrial levels. Although the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is much greater, methane is 84 times more potent in terms of warming the climate system over the first 20 years after its release.
Most scenarios for stabilizing average global temperatures at 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels depend on strategies for both reducing the overall amount of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere and removing what's already in the atmosphere through approaches such as tree...
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