Methane’s Short Lifespan Presents Golden Opportunity to Quickly Address Climate Change


A Q&A with a Berkeley Lab scientist on how a comprehensive low-cost, high-tech approach to pinpointing California super emitters could bring about rapid methane emissions reduction within a decade

Sébastien Biraud is a Berkeley Lab scientist leading an effort to identify and mitigate some of the largest emitters of methane in California’s Southern San Joaquin Valley. Methane is a short-lived air pollutant and greenhouse gas capable of warming the atmosphere about 80 times as fast as the far longer-lived carbon dioxide over 20 years.

This month the U.S. and European Union launched the Global Methane Pledge at the United Nations Climate Change conference, in recognition of the chance countries have to slow climate change by tackling methane emissions–possibly even before the end of this decade. Countries joining the pledge commit to a collective goal of reducing global methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels before 2030 with a particular focus on sources of high emissions.

Since 2019 Biraud and team have been setting up a framework for pinpointing and monitoring these “super emitters” in California’s Southern San Joaquin Valley where more than 50% of methane emissions can be traced back to less than 10% of super emitters from the dairy and oil and gas industries. Their goal is to identify the super emitters at the scale of individual oil wells, fields, or entire regions, quantify the amount of methane emitted, then use that information to help inform mitigation approaches across California and elsewhere.

Continue reading at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Image via Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory