Plugging methane leaks: One cheap fix would make a big difference for the climate crisis

Paris, France - An international research team found out that just three countries need to put a cork in their methane gas leaks to make a dent in the climate crisis.

Turning the climate problem rightside up requires dealing with methane leaks.
Turning the climate problem rightside up requires dealing with methane leaks.  © IMAGO / Panthermedia

As seen by ArsTechnica, climate researchers published a study in Science with their findings that the US, Russia, and Turkmenistan are responsible for nearly 12% of global methane leaks, but that the solution would be simple and cheap.

The study zeroed in on the impacts of methane that leaks into the atmosphere from drilling for oil and gas, as well as refining and storing fossil fuels.

The leaks are a huge problem for the climate, because methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas, with a heating effect over eight times stronger than CO2, according to the UN.

The team worked with images of large methane leaks taken from 2019 through 2020 by the TROPOMI satellite to identify what they call "ultra-emitters", and found over 1,800 leaks of over 25 tons of methane per hour.

The fossil fuel industry is responsible for two-thirds of those hefty leaks, which were mainly concentrated in Russia and the US.

The team also had some good news, though. Simulations showed that the money spent on plugging leaking wells, coal mines, and fixing old pipes and other infrastructure would be a pittance compared to saving $100 million per year in the US.

Plus, the Climate & Clean Air Coalition says that each ton of methane that doesn't leak into the atmosphere saves $4,400 in climate costs. The study used that data to show that plugging the ultra-emitting locations in the US could save the over $1.5 billion per year in climate change damages.

Even though methane leaks are making climate change worse, plugging them wouldn't break the bank.

Cover photo: IMAGO / Panthermedia

More on Environment and Climate: