Tag: Tech

NASA’s New 3D Picture of Methane Can Track Sources and Movement Around Globe

by Anshul Dash

NASA has developed a 3-dimensional picture of the Earth with methane concentrations. This picture shows the numerous sources of methane on the ground and its behavior as it moves through the atmosphere. NASA has combined multiple data sets from emissions inventories, including fossil fuel, agricultural, biomass burning and biofuels, and simulations of wetland sources into a high-resolution computer model.

Methane is the second-most influential greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, responsible for 20-30% of Earth’s rising temperatures. Methane concentrations have more than doubled since the Industrial Revolution, accelerating the increase in global temperatures. Methane is more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide; however, the lifetime of a methane molecule is shorter than that of carbon dioxide, which is why carbon dioxide is still the most prominent contributor to global warming.

In addition to fossil fuel activities, sources of methane also include the ocean, flooded soils in vegetated wetlands along rivers and lakes, agriculture, such as rice cultivation, and the stomachs of ruminant livestock, including cattle. It is estimated that up to 60% of methane emission is the result of human activity. As human populations continue to grow, changes in energy use, agriculture and rice cultivation, livestock raising will influence methane emissions.

NASA’s 3D model can estimate methane emissions based on known processes for certain land-cover types, such as wetlands. The model can also simulate the atmospheric chemistry that breaks down methane and removes it from the air. It also shows that once methane emissions are lofted up into the atmosphere, high-altitude winds can transport it far beyond their sources.

The model shows several locations that stand out. In South America, the Amazon River basin and its adjacent wetlands flood seasonally, creating an oxygen-deprived environment that is a significant source of methane. In India, rice cultivation and livestock are the two driving sources of methane. China’s economic expansion and large population drive the high demand for oil, gas and coal exploration for industry as well as agriculture production, which are its underlying sources of methane.

The modeling of methane concentrations around the globe also helps NASA plan future field and satellite missions. One of the satellites that NASA is planning to launch in 2023 is called GeoCarb. The satellite will provide space-based observations of methane in the atmosphere over much of the western hemisphere.

Overall, with a more detailed understanding of methane concentrations worldwide, the doubts scientists had previously can be cleared by giving a qualitative understanding of how methane moves around the atmosphere and where it’s produced. By predicting where methane will end up in the atmosphere and where its sources are located, scientists can mitigate methane emissions, thus slowing down the effects of climate change.

Fees for Going Green? How State Governments are Charging the Public for Trying To Reduce Emissions.

by Kaushal Kumar

Starting in 2020, more states are looking to increase or add fees to the registration of electric or hybrid vehicles. This year more than 8 states have added or increased their fees on the registration of electric vehicles. Most notable of these states are California, Iowa, Oregon, and Utah whose populations of electric car drivers is over 50% of the national total. 

While many electric vehicle drivers are not welcoming the addition of these fees, more than half of US states have some form of fees for electric drivers implemented. Most states choose a set fee every year that is paid when renewing the registration of the hybrid or electric vehicle. However, other states like Utah and Oregon have different options that, if drivers choose, will charge them a set fee for every mile driven in their electric car in the year, capping off at the car’s registration fee.

These instituted fees will pay for the lost tax revenue that the state normally receives through taxes on gasoline and diesel and will go towards the development of state infrastructure. Before the implementation of registration fees, or fees for using the states’ roads, electric car drivers were not contributing to the total cost of the upkeep of our country’s roads. According to Ryan Glon, “the driver of a sedan that returns 25 mpg pays $301 in taxes annually, and a $187 chunk goes to the state. The driver of a 50-mpg plug-in hybrid contributes $150 to the budget, which reduces the state’s share to $93, while those who commute in an electric car, absent taxes, pay precisely $0.” The current fees in place have drivers paying anywhere from $50 to $200 dollars per year, depending on the state and plan that the driver chooses (Source).

These fees hint at a larger problem that seems to be looming with the soaring popularity of electric vehicles. Fees like this show how our government cannot maintain offering benefits for owners of green technology. Similar things can be seen in the cuts to the tax benefits electric car owners used to receive due to the large increase in hybrid and electric vehicles. While charges like these are necessary to allow the government to pay for the preservation of state and national infrastructure, it draws from the incentive to buy an electric vehicle, and in the long run may hurt our world in its battle against climate change.