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back to article NASA study identifies the ‘low hanging fruit’ in climate change

A group led by NASA and Columbia University has published a study claiming that an immediate focus on two non-CO2 pollutants – soot and methane – will help address climate change in the short term while international geopolitics wends its way through the Byzantine politics needed to get a global agreement. Their assertion is …

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Anonymous Coward

the alternative is..

.. we put a plug on our collective asses.

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Trollface

collective (human) plug not required

Stop eating meat. That fixes the cow-methane problem.

Or, if that's too hard to ask, stop subsidising corn, which subsidises all sorts of things which end up in unhealthy products.

Eat some broccoli.

Ahahaha... stop subsidies to a powerful interest.... ahahaha! I kill myself with laughter!

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Anonymous Coward

> Stop eating meat. That fixes the cow-methane problem.

Not for the dairy herds, and on past experience a veggy diet certainly wouldn't do much for my personal methane production. Beans and cabbage, anyone?

Couldn't we just fit cows with pilot lights? Might save on rural street lighting as well.

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crap

Read the article folks. It's 'manure' that is the problem he sights here. My question is how much methane is produced from 'capturable', farmed animals manure (guess: millions of tonnes pa) and how much is produced from the entire ecosystem (guess: billions, even tens of billions of tonnes pa, ... my guess is that the bat population produces as much as livestock ). Net result? Very little. Oh, and you obviously must not allow animals to free roam as they might take a dump in an 'uncontrolled manner' but where are most animals free to roam? Oh, that'll be the 'non-developed' nations then ...

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@P. Lee

"Stop eating meat. That fixes the cow-methane problem."

It doesn't. All animals fart. If there were not cows feeding off vegetation, other animals which also produce methane would be. While draining marshes creates problems in respect of biodiversity and reduction of important wildlife refuges, methane used to be called "marsh gas" for good reason.

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Other end

@PyLETS

The problem with cows is, apparently, not farting but burping.

The benefits of less meat consumption are, I think, fewer ruminants burping out methane and less manure emitting methane.

Your assertion that "all animals fart" assumes that the vegetation-to-methane cycle would remain the same without cattle farming. I'm not sure this is true. Meat production is a fairly inefficient way of turning vegetation into food, so the farmed acreage would probably be smaller if we all ate less meat. If it's not farmed then the land will revert to grassland or forest, neither of which produces much methane. And despite the bean jokes, humans on a vegetarian diet produce a lot less methane than the cattle required to feed them.

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@P.Lee

"Stop eating meat."

U nuts? I don't care if the planet turns into Waterworld, I am not giving up my sausage!

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Paris Hilton

Worse yet, if we don't eat the cows, they'll reproduce until we're armpit-deep in them, as they have no remaining alternate natural predators. Then we'll have even *more* methane output, as they'll be free to graze and fart nearly the entire world over. (I believe I've seen on the nature channel that they can grasp together to form rafts or bridges, and float or walk across seas to remote lands in large numbers. That was either cows or ants - can't remember which right now.)

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Wow. Some sanity finally appears!

Soot is universally known to be damaging to health, and methane capture makes sense anyway as you can use it as a fuel instead of letting it free.

Shame it will be totally ignored as soot and methane are already mostly captured in developed nations, so can't be used as a stick to beat up the voters the same way as CO2 is.

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Anonymous Coward

Surely an alternative view (and I am not taking sides just trying to understand) would be that as we've *already* dealt with those two problems we *have to* move on to something else (always assuming there's any sort of problem at all).

I'm a voter but I don't feel beaten by any CO2 stick - what am I missing?

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Happy

I predict a-

Burger Tax.

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Presumably you don't live in the UK

Either that or you don't own/run a motor vehicle, consume electricity or purchase any items that require either of the former to get to you.

Take a look at petrol and diesel prices. Most of that is a tax to beat up on people using CO2.

Equally, Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax) varies directly proportional to the CO2-per-mile emissions of the vehicle.

Electricity prices are being rapdily artificially inflated to pay for "zero CO2" microgeneration.

Perhaps you live in another country and are safe from some of this madness for the time being, but it is spreading.

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@Richard 12: I'd wager he lives here in the US,

and is just as beaten about by the CO2 stick as the UK. Except that on our side of the pond instead of making direct correlations like you list, it gets hidden in regulations and taxes on industry, which in turn allows the politicians and news media to blame it on the big bad capitalists instead.

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Anonymous Coward

Really?

After reading the "GHG Theory 33C Effect Whatchamacallit" paper by Pierre R Latour this all seems a bit meaningless.

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Phraseology problem

"The measures proposed by the NASA / Columbia University team focus instead on soot and methane. By making these – particularly soot and methane – the targets ..."

Anybody else see a problem with the above two phrases? How can you focus on two items "particularly" when there *are* only two items in the list?

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Black Helicopters

You dont expect climate change writers

To make sense.

Its all in the drama darling. No facts needed or wanted.

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We banned burning crop residues in the UK, around twenty years ago.

It increased the fuel use by farmers for land cultivation, and increased the use of expensive pesticides. In countries where these are not an affordable option, crop yields will likely drop.

I really hope that this report has taken those factors into account, shifting from a CO2 neutral process to one of increased use of fossil hydrocarbons, both as energy source and chemical feedstock. From my own knowledge, politicians don't care to think about what their schemes cost farmers.

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Banned Yes, Enforced....not so much

Given that it was banned in 1994 and that I still see farmers burning large fields to this day, it seems that either the farming community is largely thumbing their nose collectively at the law (big surprise there, what with the large numbers of unroadworthy vehicles being driven from field to field, careless and at times reckless driving in towns,pleading poverty yet theres a premium marque vehicle under 12 months old sitting outside the house etc) or the law isn't being enforced due to people being told to look the other way.

It annoys me especially as my town regularly during spring, summer and early autumn every single year gets deluged with choking acrid smoke from surrounding fields being burned, yet the farmers and their workers claim ignorance of the law or make up some exemption or other that doesnt actually exist, then the council "lose" the investigation or "advise" them of the law (I thought ignorance of the law was no defence??)

Perhaps seizing title of the land being burned (ala cars being used by drink drivers) would focus their minds, and especially that of the landlords of tenant farmers. Make sure your tenants obey the law or lose the land, though I'm sure a few brown envelopes sent to the usual people would ensure that provision wouldn't happen.

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WTF?

>For example, he said, global crop yields could be increased by more than 135 million tonnes,

Good - we need more food because we have a large population.

>and soot-related deaths could be cut by at least 700,000 annually

I hope we can grow more food to sustain our increasing population.

Well that's balanced out nicely, hasn't it?

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Flame

Cow-burp-capture...

...will solve this. Stop letting those evil bovines roam free to burp our planet to its doom! Stick them in a big shed where their burps can be captured and the methane used to flame-grill them after they've been pattyised by the pattyising machine, which is powered by burning their poop.

Mwuuuuhahahahaha !!!

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FAIL

Oh YEAH, this all looks reeeeeeal easy and cheap:

preventing emissions from landfills (what, a billion dollar dome over each one?)

updating wastewater treatment plants (oh, that will be cheap!)

more frequent drainage of rice paddies (are you going to tell those farmers how to grow their rice?)

and limiting emissions from manure on farms (I've got a life-size image of this!)

upgrading family cooking stoves (what, my Kenmore?)

cleaning up industrial processes (oh, no biggie)

and putting an end to routine farming burn-offs (by substituting what, exactly?)

http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/fail_32.png

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Trollface

@DaveMorris

American. Do not feed.

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upgrading family cooking stoves (what, my Kenmore?)

You're off the hook - they're worried about people who have to burn wood, dung or kerosene in stoves or for lighting and heat. Most stoves in the developing world haven't changed in the last few thousand years and are very inefficient. They produce huge amounts of tiny particles that cause long term health problems. Producing a more efficient stove (of which plenty of simple, appropriate designs that can be built in the community that use them already exists) would help solve this problem, it would free up people's time as they would need to gather less fuel, improve their financial situation if they have to buy fuel and it would be good for the environment if fewer trees were hacked down for firewood.

If only we could do the same for the bloody goats that people think make great charity gifts when in fact they help desertification.

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@DaveMorris

"preventing emissions from landfills (what, a billion dollar dome over each one?"

Are you thick or what? Capping a landfill site with a plastic membrane doesn't cost even remotely what you think it does, but still manages to be rather an efficient methane trap. Add enough containerized motor generators to match the methane supply and connect them to the nearest electricity grid spur. Job done for a few million at most. This is known technology, so no development needed: its been in use in the more advanced nations since the early '90s. See:

http://www.envirowaste.co.nz/index.php?page=landfill-gas-to-power

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landfill gas

There was a paper from 4-5 years ago which pointed out that landfill gas is the biggest single source of renewable energy in the UK at the moment, producing about 30% of such energy.

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@Martin Gregorie

Interestingly there is a BMW plant in the US that does this.

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Mushroom

Killer Soot?

Yet another reason for the nuclear option. The annual death toll from fossil fuels runs into the millions (WHO figures, not enviroloonies). The total death toll in the entire history of the nuclear industry is a fraction of that, even if you take a ridiculously-inflated view of the Chernobyl mortality figures.

And despite this there was some totally stupid program on the TV saying that a small earthquake centuries ago may have caused a storm surge on the River Severn and therefore it was unsafe to site nuclear power stations there. "Friends of the Earth"? You may love the Earth, but you clearly hate the people who live on it.

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FAIL

This will be ignored

As it is impossible to justify a tax on soot and methane the way they have CO2.

Hence of no use to governments.

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Accepting the science

The most significant aspect of this article is that El Reg has published it, with no attempt to disguise the implication that CO2 emissions are driving global warming. Balance at last!

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$700 - $5000 benefits?

Presumably those benefits were calculated by placing a value on human life and health. Is the broad range caused by the difference between "US health insurance" values and "third world dictatorship" values.

Actually, I'm pretty sure there are places out there that wouldn't value a human life anywhere near $700. That's a lifetime's accumulated wages in a Yorkshiremen sketch. Why spend so much improving the quality of life when you can just rape your next door neighbour and make another one?

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Boffin

A few notes

For large parts of the world the state of the art in home cooking and heating is a wood fire. The collective need for these is turning large parts of the planet into desert, while the fumes are the equivalent of being a 3 pack a day smoker. Between collecting the wood and the cooking fumes this kills plenty of people long before their time.

Going to (24/7 power satellite based) electricity might be the ultimate solution but for a lot of the world more efficient stoves, small scale anaerobic digestion of both animal and human waste can make a difference to people in ways they *want* and want now. The gas mantle might not be SoA in Europe or North America but it's a *major* step up for a lot of people. At a payoff of between 3x and 20x costs these schemes are even *cheap*.

Getting Latin American farmers to take the "burn" out of slash and burn is likely to more difficult. All that McBurger raw material needs its grazing and coca plants need their nutrients too.

I'll note that landfill gas can drive gas turbine generators in the MW range for 20-30 years. The question is what can be done about the ones that were not *designed* to capture Methane.

As for bovine Methane production El Reg has reported on feed supplements which chop this right down.

These are good things to do and if they can deal with 25% of the problem that's a pretty good deal.

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you can allow free roaming cows as long as you make them wear nappies

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Anonymous Coward

about time, but unacceptable to the AGW pundits..

unacceptable because soot and methane targets affect India and China-two nations who were off the hook with CO2 per capita legislation.

Adding particulates removed the effectiveness of GW legislation as a weapon of economic warfare against "developed" nations (which China and India claim to "not" be when its in their interest, and vice-versa). because it levels the playing field and makes *everyone* do their part to stabilize climate.

It reduces the efficacy of new currencies since undeveloped nations will now have less magic fairy dust to trade for industrial indulgences. Meaning less money for the "carbon credit" cartels. Meaning less return on investment towards pundits, politicians, protestors and media hype to "save the planet!" by solely attacking carbon dioxide.

The focus on particulates and agricultural emissions will "disappear" soon because it attacks the *real* reason behind AGW legislation-giving a select group of people increased money and power. Looking into particulates shifts the paradigm towards an actual climate stewardship mode-which none of the "new" elite truly cares about or wants.

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Most animal-methane is coming from insects...

I agree with focus in Methane. The problem is that most of the live-animal methane comes from insects. Termites, etc. How does that get controlled?

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The lack of "joined up" thinking never ceases to amaze me! Methane makes an excellent fuel for internal combustion engines, so instead of just "capturing" it and stuffing it in the ground somewhere, why aren't farms and sewage works producing bottled fuel gas?

If you reduce the methane to methanol (a liquid), it gets even better, as most petrol engines would only require very minor modifications to run on it (it needs a slightly richer mixture). This reduction could easily be achieved by using the off-peak power from nuclear power stations, which otherwise goes largely to waste!

A methanol fuelled car would run cooler and cleaner, and also develop more power. Model aircraft enthusiasts have been using methanol as fuel for decades, and their engines easily match the best that Formula One can offer in terms of specific output.

All it needs is someone to join the dots........!!!

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Devil

Joined up thinking

I do not rember anyone saying stuff methane under ground that was CO2.Mast farmers and sewage plants that have digesters do already use the methane that is produced either to resell or to heat the farm buildings run farm vehicles(those that can be)

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Facepalm

Politicians and lobbyists appear fundamentally incapable of dot-joining

Given so many of their "We must/will do X to get Y result" pronouncements, when it's pretty clear that the result of X is either not-Y, or actually Z.

Then there is the fun and games of policy-based evidence-making.

That said, there have been occasionaly outbreaks of common sense - eg Gove - unfortunately usually instantly rebuffed by the lobbyists - eg a certain NASUWT general secretary who gave a response diametrically opposed to her actual members wishes.

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bep

Sounds good to me

A very few years ago every car magazine in Australia would tell you that 'Australians aren't interested in diesels'. Now diesel passenger vehicles are common, to go along with the buses and trucks already polluting cities and towns with particulates. So a focus on this aspect of the problem, as well as being a global good, might help reduce respiratory illness around here.

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