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Satellite data finds landfills are methane 'super emitters'

6 Comments
By SIBI ARASU

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China and India are the world’s biggest methane polluters, a recent analysis by the International Energy Agency found.

But if based on population (emissions per capita), Russia, the USA and Brazil seem to generate more. Also, there seems a big difference in the source of emissions between China and India. In China it is energy based (mainly from coal), whereas in India it is largely non-energy based such as the landfill issue raised in the article.

I'm wondering how big a problem the landfill issue is compared to energy related emissions (coil, oil, gas). If the landfill material comes from renewable sources (e.g. food, wood or paper), and the sources are actually renewed, is it not ultimately balanced?

https://www.iea.org/reports/global-methane-tracker-2022/overview

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 If the landfill material comes from renewable sources (e.g. food, wood or paper), and the sources are actually renewed, is it not ultimately balanced?

For the cycle to be balanced the renewable sources would need to incorporate the methane in the same degree they produced when decomposed. If the sources are only recycling CO2 that is produced by the hydroxyl oxidation of methane that would mean the effects on the climate are still a net negative.

Methane in this case is an extra step on the carbon cycle that traps 80 times more heat for more than a decade. It would not matter at all if you increase the renewable sources, the rate of decomposition of the methane into CO2 would not be faster.

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Thanks, virusex.

I'm still scratching my head a little. For example, forests are both a sink and source of CH4. The rotting of leaves, dead trees and branches, etc. is a source. Are landfills not simply transferring what would happen naturally to a different location? That's assuming that the sources of wood based materials are renewed by replanting forests.

The article below suggests the methane cycle(s) is complex. I've only glanced through it. I should probably read it more thoroughly.

https://nph.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nph.15624

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Los Angles for decades has tapped the methane in their many landfills and used this to fire boilers to generate electricity for the city at small power plants located adjacent the landfills.

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I have to add that landfills in the US don't smolder and burn like the one depicted in India. They usually place a layer soil on top of a layer of trash then compact this with heavy machinery. Layer upon layer. Some start out as old gravel pits and end up looking like small hills at the end of their working life, but they are layered, trash then dirt on top, more trash then more dirt on top. No flames, no smoke but they do product methane that is extracted with pipes and burned to make electricity.

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Come back European, Australian and Nth American 'farting' cattle, all is forgiven? (Looks like).

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