- Methane Emission: Sources
- Steps being taken
- Why has India not joined the pledge?
- Prelims Facts
- How is methane produced by Termites?
As per UNEP, Methane is a GHG which is responsible for 30% of the warming since pre-industrial times. It’s contribution is 2nd only to carbon dioxide.
Why special focus on methane is needed in our fight against climate change?
- Methane has much higher global warming potential than CO2.
- IPCC had said that the methane mitigation has the greatest potential to slow warming over the next 20 years.
- A 0.3% reduction per year in methane is equivalent to net-zero for CO2 – there would be no additional warming if this level of reduction is achieved.
Methane Emission: Sources
- Natural Sources: Wetlands, termites etc.
- Wetlands are the largest source of methane.
- Agriculture – Rice cultivation, animal husbandry etc. generate substantial amount of methane.
- Energy Production (fossil fuel) – Among anthropogenic factors, after Agriculture, it is this sector which contributes to the highest methane production. It is released during the extraction, processing, and transport of fossil fuels, including coal, oil, and natural gas.
- Leakage: For e.g. the ruptures in the underwater Nord stream in Sep 2022 caused the single largest such release of the greenhouse gas.
- Landfills in recent times are also becoming a big source of methane emissions.
- Thawing of permafrost in polar region is also releasing methane. In future, it may become a big source of methane emissions.
Steps being taken:
- International Steps:
- Improving Detection:
- UNEP has launched International Methane Emissions observatory – the Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) at COP27. It is focused on scaling up global efforts to detect and act on major emissions sources in a transparent manner and accelerate implementation of the global methane pledge.
- Improving Detection:
- Global Methane Pledge announced at COP26.
- By COP27, 150 countries have joined the initiative lead by USA and EU. They have promised to cut their methane emission by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.
- Global warming would be reduced by at least 0.2 degree Celsius by 2050, if countries deliver according to the pledge.
- Health benefits: Oxidation of methane is responsible for formation of ground-level ozone (smog), which is a harmful air pollutant.
Why has India not joined the pledge?
- India’s methane emissions are ‘survival emissions’ and not ‘luxury’ emissions.
- The two prominent source of methane in India are enteric fermentation and ‘paddy cultivation’ and any restriction on them would harm small and marginal farmers.
- Other than harming farmers, it may also reduce agri production. Currently, India is one of the largest producers and exporters of rice.
- India also argues that 6th IPCC report has highlighted that CO2 is the major global warming gas and this pledge is shifting focus to methane which has a lifetime of only 12 years, whereas CO2 can survive for more than 100 years.
India has not joined the global methane pledge, but it doesn’t mean the India is not worried about methane emissions. There are several fronts on which India is working.
- National Innovation in Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) project of ICAR has developed several technologies with the potential to mitigate methane emissions.
- For instance, the ‘System of Rice Intensification’ has the potential to enhance rice yield from 36-49% with 22-35% less water than conventional transplanted rice. It also uses less seed, fertilizers, and pesticides.
- Key steps involve:
1. Planting young seedlings (less than 15 days old) with only one or two leaves
2. Planting them singly, spaced widely apart
3. Maintaining soil moisture at a level that promotes aerobic soil conditions
4. Controlling weeds by mechanical means, such as hand weeding or using a rotary hoe.
5. Using organic matter to improve soil fertility
6. Applying small amounts of fertilizer at specific stages of plant growth
Another technology, ‘Direct Seeded Rice’ reduces methane emissions as it does not
involve raising nurseries, puddling, and transplanting. Unlike transplanted paddy
cultivation, standing water is not mantained in this system.
Harit Dhara: It is an anti-methanogenic feed supplement developed by ICAR. It can cut
down cattle methane emissions by 17-20% and can also result in higher milk production.
Under Crop Diversification Program, methane emission is being avoided due to diversion
of paddy to alternate crops like pulses, oilseeds, maize, cotton, and agro-forestry.
- Renewable Energy Transition: In long run it will reduce dependency on fossil fuels which will reduce emissions of both CO2 and methane.
- Alternate Agricultural practices:
- Improving the effectiveness and yield of rice cultivation methods like System of Rice Intensification and Direct Seeded Rice and encouraging more farmers to adopt these practices.
- Crop diversification to reduce dependency on rice.
- Focus on Burp Control:
- Promote anti-methanogenic feed supplement like Harit Dhara.
- More R&D on alternatives. For e.g. in 2021 EU approved a food supplement, Bovaer, saying that it can consistently reduce methane emissions from dairy cows by 30-80%.
- Scientific Waste Management: Reduce the waste disposal on landfills; ensure installation of landfill gas capture systems etc.; converting organic waste into biogas which can be used for energy etc.
- Leak Detection and Repair: Regular monitoring and maintenance of oil and gas infrastructure can minimize methane leaks.
- Improved International Cooperation: Global targets; data sharing, finance mobilization; technology transfers; Improved R&D are some of the methods by which international cooperation can contribute in fighting the challenge of methane.
Conclusion: Addressing methane emissions is critical for mitigating global warming and its associated impacts. A comprehensive approach dealing with fossil fuel sector, agriculture sector and international cooperation will be needed for a more resilient and climate-resilient future.
A) Termites emit Methane: But the extent of their risk to Global Warming is uncertain (Source: DTE)
- As per the Global Carbon Project, In 2008-17, the world emitted 576 Tg of methane per year, of which termites contributed 9 Tg.
- However, scientists say that the real emissions may be greater or lesser than this. To establish certainty, there is a need to understand the relationship between termite colonies and methane.
How is methane produced by Termites?
- In natural ecosystems, they feed on and recycle the nutrients present in dead and decaying plant and animal matter.
- It is this cellulose-rich diet that causes their emissions.
- Methanogenic microorganisms that live in the gut of termites break down the cellulose entering the body and release methane.
- Discuss the sources, implications, and potential mitigation strategies of methane emissions in the context of global warming and climate change. How can international cooperation play a significant role in addressing this significant environmental concern? [15 marks, 250 words]