Fighting climate change is about to take a new technological turn – space tracking. Emitted from landfills, oil and gas operations, and the rear ends of cattle, methane gas is one of the worst greenhouse gases for the planet. Determining where these gases are coming from and to what is extent is difficult, making regulation and reduction a challenge. The Environmental Defense Fund (EFD) hopes to use technology to address the problem: a methane tracking satellite.
Scheduled to launch in three years, the MethaneSAT would determine the location of methane gasses around the globe and be able to tell how much is being emitted. This technology vastly surpasses the current ways methane is monitored. Tracking on land and by airplane, methane readings can vary in accuracy. Plus, many operations try to limit their methane output or leaks only when being monitored. Whether it is a landfill, cattle yard, or native wetland, in the United States or China, the satellite will provide much-needed data to scientists and officials.
Though less abundant that carbon dioxide, the other major greenhouse gas, methane poses more warming potential to the atmosphere according to Steven Hamburg, climate scientist for the EFD. The gas spends a shorter time period in the atmosphere but is more efficient at trapping radiation.
You can make a difference.
Methods to reduce methane emissions include regular maintenance of equipment to prevent leaks and capturing the gas from landfills. But one easy way anyone can help is by going vegetarian or vegan! 30% of methane emissions globally are estimated to come from the manure of livestock and enteric fermentation, output from the digestive process of ruminant animals (yep, farts). In addition, the carbon dioxide emissions produced by the agricultural industry and transportation of animal products would be reduced greatly in a less meat-centric world. By adopting a plant-based diet, each and every person could help to eliminate this harmful greenhouse gas from our atmosphere and fight the tide of climate change.
Once MethaneSAT starts its orbit and data collection, the rest is up to advocates. The health of our planet and conditions of our climate will only improve if the knowledge we have is put to good use in regulating methane sources.