Why is it Important to Reduce Methane Emissions?

Sources and Solutions

Kerstin Butzelaar
Marketing Manager, ecoToken System Inc

Categories: Methane

When talking about climate change, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) are two of the most referenced greenhouse gases. These gases are of concern because they trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Eliminating and reducing their production is challenging because people and businesses must change their habits.

Let’s start with this question: If methane is short-lived and approximately 200 times less abundant in the atmosphere than CO2, why is it of concern? The short version, methane’s damage to our atmosphere is quick but fades. It traps more heat in a shorter amount of time than CO2 which consistently traps heat for decades. This means that most of the damage caused by newly emitted methane occurs within approximately 8–9 years before the methane is destroyed through hydroxyl oxidation.

Sources of Methane

Methane’s short-lived but greater heat-trapping potential can be further understood when we look at the different sources of methane. Methane from fossil fuels releases gases that have been stored for millions of years within the earth, previously out of the earth’s atmosphere. The same can be said for methane that is released from the Arctic tundra.

Methane MoleculeBiogenic methane (from ruminant animals or wetlands) is derived from recently released CO2 that is already present in the atmosphere. For example, plants capture CO2 through photosynthesis and store the carbon from CO2 as carbohydrates. Plants will release methane however, when they decompose anaerobically; if they are not consumed first by animals for instance. When ruminant animals like cows eat the grass, they release carbon as methane through belches or flatulence. After a period of 8–9 years, biogenic methane is converted into CO2 through hydroxyl oxidation. This atmospheric chemical reaction is considered a methane sink because it destroys or removes the methane from the atmosphere.

However, all methane has the same warming potential and it all breaks down at the same rate, approximately 8-9 years. Unfortunately, the available methane sinks do not balance out the methane produced from fossil fuels, the arctic tundra, and biogenic sources. As it stands, methane continues to contribute to the concentration of CO2 already in the atmosphere and as a result, global warming.

The Importance of Reducing Biogenic Methane

Dairy CowsConsider this, over 20 years methane is 86 times more potent at warming than CO2. Even though methane leaves the atmosphere faster and does all its damage between 8-9 years of its life, it sets the pace for warming in the short-term. Reducing biogenic methane emissions now is like taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it in the ground. This generates near-term cooling since more methane is being destroyed than produced. Generating short-term cooling is significant in the fight against climate change because it provides the global community time to develop solutions that address the world’s longer-lived CO2 emissions and slow the global temperature rise.

Reducing biogenic methane is important because odds are the world’s herd size is likely to increase. This means the amount of biogenic methane produced from livestock and the amount destroyed through hydroxyl oxidation, will not balance out without intervention. One way to reduce biogenic methane from animal agriculture, that does not call for the reduction of the world’s herd size, is through manure management.

Manure Lagoon System

Managing Manure to Reduce Methane Emissions

Tackling manure management with ecoToken Systems produces cost savings for the farmer while improving the environment. Our manure management methods reduce the methane produced from the manure lagoon, render the manure into a liquid plant nutrient that can be applied to fields at any time of the year, protects groundwater, eliminates the manure related odour, and reduces heavy metals in the soil. This method of reducing methane does not make the cost of doing business more expensive like other greenhouse gas reducing efforts that increase the price of operations by charging for CO2 emissions.
Funding manure lagoon projects through ecoToken Systems helps to remove methane emissions from the atmosphere while transforming the environmental credit space into an open and freely traded market. ecoToken Systems aims to create an entirely new way for companies and individuals to participate in the carbon credit market. With our manure lagoon ecoProjects, we bring individuals and farmers into the fold for carbon dioxide removal.