A cloud of the potent greenhouse gas methane can be seen in a high-resolution satellite image shot less than 48 hours ago near an Indian garbage dump. The image is the second in a series of unique observations from the emissions monitoring business GHGSat Inc. that Bloomberg Green will publish at COP27.
The discovery demonstrates how waste mounds, which emit the potent greenhouse gas methane when organic material such as food scraps decompose in the absence of oxygen, are causing some of the world’s highest and most persistent methane emissions.
Landfills and wastewater are responsible for around 20% of human-caused methane emissions. The satellite image, obtained on November 5 at 1:28 p.m. Mumbai time, shows a plume of methane that GHGSat attributes to an Indian dump. The projected methane emission rate was 1,328 kilos per hour. According to the Montreal-based company, landfills are chronic emitters.
Reduced emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas, which has 84 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide during its first two decades in the atmosphere, are one of the quickest and cheapest methods to chill the globe, according to scientists.
Failure to reduce waste sector emissions may jeopardize global climate targets. Diverting food scraps and other organics from landfills is critical for reducing future emissions. The environmental impact of legacy dumps can be reduced by aerating rubbish mounds and installing gas capture systems.
The fresh imagery comes as world leaders convene in Egypt this week to discuss climate change policies, with the UN predicting that global temperatures in 2022 will be 1.15 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, making it the fifth or sixth hottest year on record.
According to GHGSat, the first image in the series, published on Sunday, depicted six methane leaks in northeast China near the Daqing oilfield. The estimated emission rates ranged from 446 to 884 kilos per hour, with a total rate of 4,477 kilograms per hour.
If the leaks continued at that rate for an hour, they would have the same short-term climate impact as 81 US cars’ annual emissions. Methane is the major component of natural gas and accounts for around 30% of global warming.
Leaks can occur during the mining and transportation of fossil fuel, but methane is also routinely produced as a byproduct of oil and coal production, and if operators do not have the infrastructure to transport the gas to market, it may be released into the atmosphere. The International Energy Agency has requested that all non-emergency methane leaking be halted.
The discoveries show satellites’ fast-developing ability to detect and track methane practically anywhere in the world, ushering in a new era of climate transparency in which greenhouse emissions will be quantified and assigned to individual assets and companies in near real-time.
More businesses and organizations are launching multi-spectral satellites capable of detecting the unique signature of methane. GHGSat currently has six satellites in orbit dedicated to industrial methane monitoring, with plans to launch another five by the end of next year.
A coalition led by Carbon Mapper, the state of California, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Planet Labs wants to launch two satellites next year.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, methane concentrations in the atmosphere increased the most year on year in 2021 since measurements began four decades ago.
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