AAAS Congress | Harrow on methane

AAAS Congress |  Harrow on methane

Our journalist attends the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, the world’s largest public scientific meeting.


(Washington) Development of genetically modified microbes and manure to help beef farms produce less methane. Satellite-linked robots to detect and exploit methane leaks from regional and urban wells and gas pipelines. These are two pillars of the US plan to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

“Tackling methane allows us to act quickly on the climate,” says Lori Bruhwiler, manager of methane monitoring at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “It disappears from the atmosphere in ten years and is a greenhouse gas 80 times more potent than CO2. This is the fruit within our reach. » CO2 Lasts 100 years in the atmosphere.

The US plan to reduce methane emissions, released in 2021, primarily targets companies that exploit hydrocarbons. “Estimates of economically feasible emission reductions from oil and gas production and transportation range from 45% to 77%,” says Ms.me Buruhvilar. This would cost companies nothing, meaning that we can assume that the sector could reduce its emissions by another 50%. But so far, only two of the Big Five producers in the U.S. have announced they’re in our semi-subsidized program. So I think we need to focus on cattle farms and other emissions that can be dealt with quickly in landfills. »

Biogas on farms

As far as landfills are concerned, biogas capture is funded by well-established programs. According to University of California, Davis agronomist Dean Meyer, these programs extend to beef farms.

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“This is especially important on farms in states with cold winters because cow dung collects in liquid form,” he explains. Methane emissions are higher than those from solid manure, such as open field farms in the southern United States. We have 250 biogas projects on 240 farms in California, half of which are subsidized by federal climate programs. We believe that biogas can reduce emissions from the livestock sector by a quarter by 2030. »

The work focuses on cow burps, the source of 80% of cow emissions.

Photo by University of California, Davis website

Dean Meyer is an agronomist at the University of California, Davis

We’re trying algae, probiotics, different microbes, genetically modified microbes. But so far nothing has worked permanently.

Dean Meyer is an agronomist at the University of California, Davis

“Even the probiotics approved in Europe for cow feed are similar to the cow’s methane factory returning to normal production after six to eight weeks,” says Ms.me Mayor.

“There is a problem with lactation studies: the agronomist says that in order to adopt a new technique, lactation must be monitored for a year to detect any change in performance. »

Avoid spills

To overcome opposition from the hydrocarbon industry, Arvind Ravikumar, a geoengineer at the University of Texas at Austin, is establishing a system that integrates measurements by satellite, aircraft, drones, automobiles and stationary platforms of methane emissions. “The aim is to accurately quantify methane emissions and see where and how emissions can be avoided, especially which ones may exist. Sometimes there are 100-fold differences in one day. And 40% of emissions are caused by catastrophic events, which is only 1% of individual leaks. »

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The fight against methane emissions is critical because it could intensify if disaster warning signs appear, Ms.me Buruhvilar. “Methane is precisely one of the biggest risks of climate change. Arctic permafrost contains four times more methane than humanity has ever emitted since the dawn of agriculture. If temperatures rise by 3 degrees Celsius, methane emissions will double by XXIIe century »

Other Congress News

Assess the balance

Harvard researchers have developed a small plantar pressure meter that for the first time can measure a person’s balance and therefore their risk of falling. Two studies are underway to confirm the clinical utility of this plantar pressure meter. 39,000 people die each year in the United States from falls in the elderly. Transferring these figures to Quebec, we arrive at a figure of 1000 deaths per year.

A large radio telescope

Photo from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory website

Largest laboratory in New Mexico

Nearly 250 antennas in four US states and Mexico: this is the “Largest Second Generation Observing” program (ngVLA, The next generation is a huge lineup) developed by American astronomers. Their current observatory, VLA, has 28 antennas in New Mexico and will form the heart of ngVLA. The plan, which aims to launch in 2035, could include Canada. VLA was popularized by the 1997 movie contact With Jodie Foster.

Third hand

Photo from the Lausanne Federal Polytechnic School website

A third arm of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne used by a student

A Swiss neuroengineer has developed a robotic “third arm” that can be controlled by the human brain. Silvestro Micera of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne presented his plan to achieve this on Friday. “Third weapons” have already been invented, notably by the US military, but they are handled by their operator’s two hands and are intended to increase human strength. More traditional, neuropsychologist Tamar Makin of the University of Cambridge, England, demonstrated controlling her ‘second thumb’ with her thumb via a wire – a wireless version is being produced. This second thumb allows you to grasp something while using your fingers.

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Learn more

  • 16%
    Methane contribution to climate change over 20 years

    Source: NOAA

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