Landfills release more methane than expected

A recent study reveals that U.S. landfills emit methane at rates nearly triple those previously reported to regulators, shedding light on their significant role in climate change.

Hiroko Tabuchi reports for The New York Times.


In short:

  • Landfills are now identified as a major source of methane emissions, significantly contributing to climate change.
  • This revelation comes from direct measurements using imaging spectrometers, not just computer models.
  • The study's findings highlight the importance of addressing landfill emissions as part of global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.

Key quote:

"We've largely been in the dark, as a society, about actual emissions from landfills."

— Riley Duren, former NASA engineer and scientist and founder of Carbon Mapper

Why this matters:

Given that methane is over 25 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere over a 100-year period, its release from landfills poses a substantial challenge to climate change mitigation efforts.

Meanwhile, oil and gas methane emissions in US are at least 15% higher than we thought.

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