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Scientists Explore Pulling Potent1 Methane2 Out of the Air to Curb3 Warming

CLIMATEWIRE | Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is essential to meeting international climate goals, scientists say. Without it, it’s all but impossible to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions4 in time to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius5, the primary targets of the Paris climate agreement.
Yet carbon dioxide isn’t the only climate-warming gas that needs a sharp cutback in the atmosphere. Experts are turning their focus to methane as well.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine hosted a workshop dedicated6 to atmospheric7 methane removal, which is the process of removing methane emissions directly from the air.
The workshop included presentations by dozens of researchers and policy experts addressing questions about the science and effectiveness of methane removal, potential side effects and unintended consequences and the ways it should be governed and regulated.
These presentations will be used to inform a forthcoming NASEM report on atmospheric methane removal. The study will examine the global need for methane removal, viable8 options for carrying it out and potential risks and benefits, while outlining a road map for future research.
The subject is more complicated than carbon dioxide removal, which has received more attention and research.
Methane has a far shorter lifetime in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, yet it’s a much more potent greenhouse gas while it lasts. The world already has warmed by more than 1 degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution, and scientists estimate that methane may be responsible for as much as 0.5 degrees.
Reducing methane emissions is at their sources is a growing priority. At the same time, scientists say, removing methane directly from the atmosphere is essential to meeting the world's climate goals.
There are many ways to suck carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere, from planting trees to building carbon-guzzling machines. Many of these solutions require large land, water or technical resources and have yet to be implemented9 at a globally meaningful scale.
Yet the concepts are relatively10 well researched and understood.
Methane removal, by comparison, is more complex and more difficult. For one thing, methane is far less abundant in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, meaning methane capture systems must process much larger quantities of air in order to make a meaningful difference.
Scientists are working on various techniques. Researchers at this week’s workshop presented a variety of strategies, including methane-absorbing minerals, methane-eating microorganisms and special chemical reactions involving chlorine atoms, which can help scrub methane from the atmosphere.
Still, questions remain about how well these strategies would work and whether they could be scaled up quickly enough to make a meaningful dent11 in global methane concentrations.
There are also uncertainties12 about unintended side effects of some emerging technologies. Adding chlorine to the atmosphere, for instance, can actually increase the lifetime of methane in the atmosphere if it isn’t carefully dosed. It can also attack the Earth’s protective ozone13 layer.
On the other hand, chlorine-based methods could decrease certain other types of climate-warming gases in the atmosphere in addition to methane.
“There’s a lot of competing pluses and minuses when you talk about these methods,” said Hannah Horowitz, an environmental engineer at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in a presentation at the workshop.
Presenters14 also discussed the need for more studies on the social impacts of methane removal techniques and more discussions on the ways they should be governed and regulated.
Because methane removal is still an emerging field, with many remaining scientific uncertainties, communities likely will have questions and concerns about its costs, resource needs and possible side effects. It’s important to properly engage communities and take their concerns seriously, presenters at the workshop said.
That’s a lesson scientists have learned from their work on other emerging technologies, such as carbon dioxide removal and certain forms of geoengineering, said presenter15 Shuchi Talati, founder16 of the nonprofit Alliance for Just Deliberation on Solar Geoengineering. Concerned communities — particularly those that are already disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of climate change and other environmental risks — are not always adequately included in public engagement efforts.
“Getting to this idea of public engagement or participation17 as a core component18 of governance is incredibly important,” she said.
More broadly, it’s also important for decisionmakers to clarify the role that methane removal is intended to serve in the larger suite19 of climate action tools, said presenter Emily Grubert, a civil engineer and environmental sociologist20 at the University of Notre Dame21.
Methane removal one day could be viewed as a kind of carbon offset22, a carbon credit that can be sold to fossil fuel emitters to allow them to continue burning fossil fuels into the future. In extreme scenarios23 though, that could lead to bad-faith activities by fossil fuel emitters, one expert warned.
Oil production, for instance, produces methane as a byproduct. Oil producers burn excess methane to convert it to less potent carbon dioxide in a process known as flaring24. Malfunctioning25 flares26 can allow excess methane to seep27 into the atmosphere.
But if methane removal becomes a lucrative28 part of the carbon offset industry, and it isn’t carefully regulated, fossil fuel companies could choose not to repair malfunctioning infrastructure29, Grubert suggested. They could instead allow the gas to escape, conduct removal on site to capture large quantities of methane, and then sell the captured methane as a removal credit.
“That’s a bad case outcome, but that’s the kind of thing that governance may create incentives30 for if it’s not really, really conscious of a lot of these issues,” she said.
These are issues the forthcoming NASEM report is expected to address. The committee is continuing to accept technical information from scientists through Oct. 31, and the final report likely will be released next summer.
“This is fun, this is novel, this is new,” said Gabrielle Dreyfus, chair of the NASEM committee that's developing the new report. “But it is not easy.”
Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2023. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.


1 potent C1uzk     
  • The medicine had a potent effect on your disease.这药物对你的病疗效很大。
  • We must account of his potent influence.我们必须考虑他的强有力的影响。
2 methane t1Eyx     
  • The blast was caused by pockets of methane gas that ignited.爆炸是由数袋甲烷气体着火引起的。
  • Methane may have extraterrestrial significance.甲烷具有星际意义。
3 curb LmRyy     
  • I could not curb my anger.我按捺不住我的愤怒。
  • You must curb your daughter when you are in church.你在教堂时必须管住你的女儿。
4 emissions 1a87f8769eb755734e056efecb5e2da9     
排放物( emission的名词复数 ); 散发物(尤指气体)
  • Most scientists accept that climate change is linked to carbon emissions. 大多数科学家都相信气候变化与排放的含碳气体有关。
  • Dangerous emissions radiate from plutonium. 危险的辐射物从钚放散出来。
5 Celsius AXRzl     
  • The temperature tonight will fall to seven degrees Celsius.今晚气温将下降到七摄氏度。
  • The maximum temperature in July may be 36 degrees Celsius.七月份最高温度可能达到36摄氏度。
6 dedicated duHzy2     
  • He dedicated his life to the cause of education.他献身于教育事业。
  • His whole energies are dedicated to improve the design.他的全部精力都放在改进这项设计上了。
7 atmospheric 6eayR     
  • Sea surface temperatures and atmospheric circulation are strongly coupled.海洋表面温度与大气环流是密切相关的。
  • Clouds return radiant energy to the surface primarily via the atmospheric window.云主要通过大气窗区向地表辐射能量。
8 viable mi2wZ     
  • The scheme is economically viable.这个计划从经济效益来看是可行的。
  • The economy of the country is not viable.这个国家经济是难以维持的。
9 implemented a0211e5272f6fc75ac06e2d62558aff0     
v.实现( implement的过去式和过去分词 );执行;贯彻;使生效
  • This agreement, if not implemented, is a mere scrap of paper. 这个协定如不执行只不过是一纸空文。 来自《现代汉英综合大词典》
  • The economy is in danger of collapse unless far-reaching reforms are implemented. 如果不实施影响深远的改革,经济就面临崩溃的危险。 来自辞典例句
10 relatively bkqzS3     
  • The rabbit is a relatively recent introduction in Australia.兔子是相对较新引入澳大利亚的物种。
  • The operation was relatively painless.手术相对来说不痛。
11 dent Bmcz9     
  • I don't know how it came about but I've got a dent in the rear of my car.我不知道是怎么回事,但我的汽车后部有了一个凹痕。
  • That dent is not big enough to be worth hammering out.那个凹陷不大,用不着把它锤平。
12 uncertainties 40ee42d4a978cba8d720415c7afff06a     
无把握( uncertainty的名词复数 ); 不确定; 变化不定; 无把握、不确定的事物
  • One of the uncertainties of military duty is that you never know when you might suddenly get posted away. 任军职不稳定的因素之一是你永远不知道什么时候会突然被派往它处。
  • Uncertainties affecting peace and development are on the rise. 影响和平与发展的不确定因素在增加。 来自汉英非文学 - 十六大报告
13 ozone omQzBE     
  • The ozone layer is a protective layer around the planet Earth.臭氧层是地球的保护层。
  • The capacity of ozone can adjust according of requirement.臭氧的产量可根据需要或调节。
14 presenters ef0c9d839d1b89c7a5042cf2bfba92e0     
n.节目主持人,演播员( presenter的名词复数 )
  • Each week presenters would put the case for their favourite candidate. 每个星期主持人推出他们最喜欢的候选人。 来自互联网
  • Karaoke was set up to allowed presenters to sing on the stage. 宴会设有歌唱舞台,可让出席者大演唱功。 来自互联网
15 presenter llRzYi     
  • Most people think being a television presenter is exciting.很多人认为当电视节目主持人是一件刺激的事情。
  • The programme dispensed with its most popular presenter.这个节目最受欢迎的主持人被换掉了。
16 Founder wigxF     
  • He was extolled as the founder of their Florentine school.他被称颂为佛罗伦萨画派的鼻祖。
  • According to the old tradition,Romulus was the founder of Rome.按照古老的传说,罗穆卢斯是古罗马的建国者。
17 participation KS9zu     
  • Some of the magic tricks called for audience participation.有些魔术要求有观众的参与。
  • The scheme aims to encourage increased participation in sporting activities.这个方案旨在鼓励大众更多地参与体育活动。
18 component epSzv     
  • Each component is carefully checked before assembly.每个零件在装配前都经过仔细检查。
  • Blade and handle are the component parts of a knife.刀身和刀柄是一把刀的组成部分。
19 suite MsMwB     
  • She has a suite of rooms in the hotel.她在那家旅馆有一套房间。
  • That is a nice suite of furniture.那套家具很不错。
20 sociologist 2wSwo     
  • His mother was a sociologist,researching socialism.他的母亲是个社会学家,研究社会主义。
  • Max Weber is a great and outstanding sociologist.马克斯·韦伯是一位伟大的、杰出的社会学家。
21 dame dvGzR0     
  • The dame tell of her experience as a wife and mother.这位年长妇女讲了她作妻子和母亲的经验。
  • If you stick around,you'll have to marry that dame.如果再逗留多一会,你就要跟那个夫人结婚。
22 offset mIZx8     
  • Their wage increases would be offset by higher prices.他们增加的工资会被物价上涨所抵消。
  • He put up his prices to offset the increased cost of materials.他提高了售价以补偿材料成本的增加。
23 scenarios f7c7eeee199dc0ef47fe322cc223be88     
  • Further, graphite cores may be safer than non-graphite cores under some accident scenarios. 再者,根据一些事故解说,石墨堆芯可比非石墨堆芯更安全一些。 来自英汉非文学 - 环境法 - 环境法
  • Again, scenarios should make it clear which modes are acceptable to users in various contexts. 同样,我们可以运用场景剧本来搞清楚在不同情境下哪些模式可被用户接受。 来自About Face 3交互设计精髓
24 flaring Bswzxn     
  • A vulgar flaring paper adorned the walls. 墙壁上装饰着廉价的花纸。
  • Goebbels was flaring up at me. 戈塔尔当时已对我面呈愠色。
25 malfunctioning 1fad45d7d841115924d97b278aea7280     
  • But something was malfunctioning in the equipment due to human error. 但由于人为的错误,设备发生故障了。 来自超越目标英语 第4册
  • Choke coils are useful for prevention of malfunctioning electronic equipment. 扼流圈对于防止电器设备的故障很有帮助。 来自互联网
26 flares 2c4a86d21d1a57023e2985339a79f9e2     
n.喇叭裤v.(使)闪耀( flare的第三人称单数 );(使)(船舷)外倾;(使)鼻孔张大;(使)(衣裙、酒杯等)呈喇叭形展开
  • The side of a ship flares from the keel to the deck. 船舷从龙骨向甲板外倾。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • He's got a fiery temper and flares up at the slightest provocation. 他是火爆性子,一点就着。 来自《现代汉英综合大词典》
27 seep rDSzK     
  • My anger began to seep away.我的怒火开始消下去了。
  • If meteoric water does not evaporate or run overland,it may seep directly into the ground.如果雨水不从陆地蒸发和流走的话,就可能直接渗入地下。
28 lucrative dADxp     
  • He decided to turn his hobby into a lucrative sideline.他决定把自己的爱好变成赚钱的副业。
  • It was not a lucrative profession.那是一个没有多少油水的职业。
29 infrastructure UbBz5     
  • We should step up the development of infrastructure for research.加强科学基础设施建设。
  • We should strengthen cultural infrastructure and boost various types of popular culture.加强文化基础设施建设,发展各类群众文化。
30 incentives 884481806a10ef3017726acf079e8fa7     
激励某人做某事的事物( incentive的名词复数 ); 刺激; 诱因; 动机
  • tax incentives to encourage savings 鼓励储蓄的税收措施
  • Furthermore, subsidies provide incentives only for investments in equipment. 更有甚者,提供津贴仅是为鼓励增添设备的投资。 来自英汉非文学 - 环境法 - 环境法