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In independent studies, two Princeton University research teams recently identified surprisingly large sources of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, being leaked into the atmosphere. Pound for pound, methane causes a far greater warming effect in the atmosphere than does carbon dioxide—86-fold more heating over 20 years, and 35-fold more over the course of a century.
In one study, a team headed by Mark Zondlo, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, looked at an area around western Pennsylvania rich with natural gas wells and found that a small number of these wells are "superemitters" of methane. The other study came from the research group of Denise Mauzerall, a professor jointly appointed in civil and environmental engineering and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. By equipping fishing boats with sensors and sailing around offshore oil and gas rigs in the North Sea, the researchers found that these facilities leak substantially more methane than previously reported.
Studies - Trump - Administration - Plans - Restrictions
Just after these studies were released, the Trump administration announced plans to roll back restrictions on methane emissions.
Here, Mauzerall and Zondlo answer questions about their discoveries and the implications of changing regulations.
Thing - People - Methane
What is one thing you wish more people understood about methane?
Denise Mauzerall: Controlling methane emissions is an effective way to slow global warming. Because methane is very effective at trapping heat and has a relatively short lifetime of about a decade before it oxidizes to carbon dioxide, controlling its emissions is an effective way of reducing the heat trapped in the atmosphere now. It thus is very influential in determining how rapidly the planet warms.
Mark - Zondlo - Methane - Atmosphere - Activities
Mark Zondlo: There is more methane in the atmosphere from human activities than natural sources. Yes, there are natural sources of methane such as wetlands—but anthropogenic [human] activities such as agriculture and fossil fuel extraction and processing now dominate methane...
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