Aerial Surveys Depicts US Landfills Are Major Sources Of Methane Emissions

by | Mar 30, 2024 | Daily News, Environmental News

Home » Environmental News » Aerial Surveys Depicts US Landfills Are Major Sources Of Methane Emissions


A recent study published in the journal Science sheds light on a concerning environmental issue: US landfills are major sources of methane emissions. Conducted by a team led by Carbon Mapper, including researchers from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Arizona State University, University of Arizona, Scientific Aviation, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the study utilized aerial surveys to examine methane emissions from landfills. What they found is both significant and alarming.

US landfills are major sources of methane emissions

The study, the largest of its kind to date, found that over half of the landfills observed through aerial surveys were identified as “super-emitting” sources of methane. These landfills, which comprise the third-largest source of methane emissions in the U.S., are deemed crucial targets for climate change mitigation efforts.

The term “super-emitters” refers to sites that release at least 100 kilograms (100 lbs) of methane per hour. Astonishingly, approximately 52% of landfills surveyed exhibited observable methane emission points, a stark contrast to the 0.2% to 1% of super-emitter sites in the oil and gas sector, historically a primary focus of methane emission regulations. Moreover, the study highlighted that at large emitting landfills, 60% of methane leaks persisted over extended periods, emphasizing the urgency of addressing these emissions.

Dan Cusworth, a scientist at Carbon Mapper and the lead author of the study, underscored the significance of identifying and mitigating these high methane sources. He stated that addressing persistent landfill emissions presents a significant opportunity for climate benefit. While regulatory efforts have primarily targeted methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, the study suggests that as aerial and satellite surveys become more prevalent, regulators will be better equipped to quantify and address methane emissions from landfills.

The study also revealed discrepancies between actual emissions and previous estimates. Model-based estimates and handheld methane sensors, commonly used by companies and regulators, provided an incomplete picture of landfill emissions. The EPA’s greenhouse gas reporting system, for instance, underestimated landfill methane emissions by 1.4 times, according to the study.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that methane accounted for 12% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in 2021. As US landfills are major sources of methane emissions, urgent action is needed to address this pressing environmental issue. By targeting super-emitting landfills and implementing comprehensive regulatory measures, there is a clear opportunity to mitigate methane emissions and combat climate change effectively.

In conclusion, the findings of the study underscore the critical importance of addressing methane emissions from landfills. With heightened awareness and targeted action, there exists a tangible opportunity to significantly reduce methane emissions and advance global efforts to combat climate change.

Also Read: Brazil And France Launched Investment Plan To Protect The Amazon Rainforests


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