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Earth Sciences leads national research project on climate change

Posted on 08/05/2017
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A research team led by Euan Nisbet, Professor of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London has a lead role in the UK’s 'world first' research programme into negative emissions coordinated by the government-funded National Environment Research Council (NERC).

In April, it was announced that a £8.6m national research programme on how to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere would fund seven projects exploring the real-world potential of “negative emissions” technologies (NETs), including soil carbon management, afforestation, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), enhanced weathering and direct capture of methane from the air.

The Paris Agreement, which has been signed by 195 countries, allows each country to forge its own path to contributing to the goals of preventing dangerous climate change. A growing body of evidence suggests the world will need negative emissions to meet the Paris goals – and the UK will need them to meet its own, legally binding carbon targets.

Professor Euan Nisbet will lead the project with researchers at Royal Holloway on how to remove methane directly from the atmosphere. It hopes to find a way to deal with hard-to-eliminate methane emissions from widely distributed agricultural or industrial sources, such as livestock or gas pipelines. Speaking about the project In an interview with online science journal, Carbon Brief, Prof Nisbet says,

 “We’re planning to use a mix of techniques…to investigate the problem of taking methane out of ambient air masses and to try to design very low cost ways of removing at least some of the methane coming from these intractable sources.”

 “Methane is a hot topic at the moment. It’s rising fast and the causes of the rise seem to be meteorological, not directly anthropogenic. There’s a lot of discussion about why the rise is taking place – more emissions, or changing sinks? – but, either way, this may be a climate change feedback.

This is important for the Paris Agreement, especially as methane’s global warming impact has recently been significantly reevaluated upwards. The progress we may make in cutting CO2 emissions may be negated by the unexpected methane rise.

The best way to cut methane is to stop emissions. Obviously, the starting point is to reduce gas leaks from the natural gas industry and to cover landfills, etc. But there are also wide disseminated emissions from cattle (including winter cattle barns and also feedlots), active cells in landfills, gas compressors turning on and off, etc, that are much more intractable.

Our new project is designed to tackle these ‘intractable’ methane emissions, where the methane is mixed into ambient air, in some tens of parts per million. Can we hope to do anything about these? We’re planning to use a mix of techniques, including catalytic removal systems based on our lab zero air systems, and also soil methanotrophy, to investigate the problem of taking methane out of ambient air masses, and to try to design very low cost ways of removing at least some of the methane coming from these intractable sources.”

The May meeting of the UN climate talks get underway this week in Bonn. The latest talks are aimed at developing the rules for implementing the accord signed in the French capital in 2015.

Read the full article on Carbon Brief here

Find out more about the work of the Greenhouse Gas Research Group at Royal Holloway

 



   
 
 
 

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