Methane science gems from the mouth of Professor Frame

Methane science gems from the mouth of Professor Frame

REX can help you get up-to-speed on methane, with host Dom George interviewing a Physics professor who relates it to drinking a beer a day.

Professor David Frame from the University of Canterbury is the master of methane science.

Here are his top one-liners.

“The good thing is that methane doesn’t matter what you did back in the past - like from the Industrial Revolution onwards. It only matters what you do recently and in the future.”

“Alcohol and methane are similar so it’s a great analogy.”

“Alcohol in your bloodstream has a strong effect at the time but it too breaks down to water and CO2.”

“A beer a day for 20 or 40 years is just one beer a day and while it is in your system, the policemen puling you over you will be interested, but he’s not interested what beer you drank twenty years ago.”

“C02 is absolutely the main event – it hangs around for thousands of years.”

“Twenty-five years of current C02 emissions is equal to all the warming we have ever experienced from methane.”

“You can hold the warming from methane quite quickly by small reductions in methane – giving a 10% reduction over 50 years or something like that.”

“Europeans lecture us on emissions and say our job is taking the lead on this, but they are not putting any of their export sectors on the chopping block in the same way.”

“I think we could show some leadership by doing something and reducing methane somewhat, but we could say we do more if others play ball.”

He said that how much NZ should reduce methane is a conversation we should have but other countries should match it.

“This is how the ozone problem was addressed.” 

“Dupont said they would use the technology as long as everyone else did the same – it was good leadership as it limited options for leakage.”

He said the amount of warming you get, if you double the amount of methane in the atmosphere, is seven-tenths of a degree. It is enough to detect. Methane warming since pre-industrial days is probably half a degree.

He bags fossil methane as a bad thing. Biogenic (animal) methane is different as it has a carbon dioxide molecule that fixes to a plant, by photosynthesis, where it is ingested by the animal, comes out as methane and has a strong warming effect but over ten years it breaks down to carbon dioxide where it started.

“So you are not adding any carbon from a geological reservoir.”

“This is the central point.”

Lumping in methane with carbon is silly when creating policies, he said.

“The GWP100 guys support this pretty ridiculous substitution – it’s a bad habit we developed in the 1990s.”

“You would never say I have had one less whisky so I can snort a bit more asbestos – that is a weird way to think”

“NZ is ahead of the curve in thinking about methane and separating them out to design a bunch of policies for methane.”

“CO2 is a natural target to get for zero but it’s not true for methane."

Listen to the full chat between Professor David Frame and Dominic George above.

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