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Wie steht’s mit Methan?

Ein Methanmolekül kann mehr als das 80-fache der Erwärmungskraft eines CO2-Moleküls haben. Und doch konzentrieren die meisten auf die Entfernung von Kohlenstoff, vergessen dabei aber auf Methan.

Eine Handvoll Start-ups verwenden Maschinen, um CO2 aus der Luft zu saugen und damit den Klimawandel zu verlangsamen. Einige Forscher glauben jedoch, dass die Entfernung von Methan, einem Treibhausgas, das viel mehr Wärme einfängt als Kohlendioxid, noch größere Auswirkungen haben könnte.

Neue Methoden der Methanentfernung

In den ersten Jahrzehnten nach seiner Freisetzung hat ein Methanmolekül mehr als das 80-fache der Erwärmungskraft eines CO2-Moleküls. Das bedeutet, dass auch die Entfernung von Methan große Auswirkungen haben kann. Wenn neue Methoden zur Methanentfernung erprobt und skaliert werden könnten, wäre das ein Schritt in die richtige Richtung. Das bestätigt auch Lena Höglund-Isaksson, wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin am International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis mit Standort in Laxenburg/NÖ. Wenn die Methankonzentration in der Atmosphäre halbiert und damit das vorindustrielle Niveau wiederhergestellt werden könnte, würde dies gegebenenfalls dazu beitragen, unseren Planeten um etwa ein halbes Grad Celsius abzukühlen. Das ist eine enorme Menge, die es ermöglichen würde, die globale Erwärmung bis zur Mitte des Jahrhunderts unter 1,5 °C zu halten, im Fall, dass auch die CO2-Emissionen sinken würden.

„Es gibt tatsächlich nicht viele Technologien, die das Problem, mit dem wir in den nächsten Jahrzehnten konfrontiert sind, lösen könnten. Denn nachdem bereits so viel CO2 vorhanden ist, wird es sehr schwer sein, unter 1,5 Grad Celsius zu bleiben – vor allem, da auch noch einige Zeit weiter emittiert werden wird“, sagt sie.

Methan-Emissionen halbieren

Die Methanemissionen sind schnell gestiegen, insbesondere im Öl- und Gassektor, wo das Gas während der Produktion und aus Leckagen in Pipelines emittiert wird. Emissionen stammen auch aus der Landwirtschaft und von Deponien. Mehrere Länder haben sich kürzlich verpflichtet, die Methanemissionen bis 2030 um 30 % zu reduzieren. Wissenschaftler sagen, dass es möglich ist, noch weiterzugehen und die Emissionen in diesem Jahrzehnt sogar halbiert werden könnten. Die Reduzierung der Methan-Emissionen kann nur teilweise helfen, da sich bereits so viel Methan in der Atmosphäre befindet. Der zusätzliche Schritt zur Entfernung von Methan aus der Luft könnte möglicherweise dazu führen, dass sich die Erwärmung umkehrt.

Es gibt mehrere Möglichkeiten, mit Methan umzugehen, von photokatalytischen Farben, die das Gas abbauen können, bis hin zu Polymeren, die in Mikroben eingebettet sind, die von Natur aus Methan fressen. Eine der vielversprechendsten Methoden könnte jedoch eine Methode sein, die der Luft zusätzliches Eisen zuführt und den Prozess beschleunigt, durch den Methan auf natürliche Weise abgebaut wird. (Im Gegensatz zu Kohlendioxid, das jahrhundertelang in der Luft bleibt, zerfällt Methan in etwa einem Jahrzehnt.)

Atmosphärisches Methan entfernen

„Der Vorteil unserer Lösung im Vergleich zu anderen Methanentfernungstechnologien besteht darin, dass unsere die einzige uns bekannte Lösung ist, die atmosphärisches Methan kostengünstig entfernen kann“, sagt Maarten van Herpen, wissenschaftlicher Berater von Methan Action. Diese gemeinnützige Organisation arbeitet daran, praktikable Methanentfernungstechnologien zu bewerten, zu testen und schließlich einzusetzen. Dazu gehört auch ein neuer Eisenprozess, an dem gemeinsam mit Wissenschaftlern der Universität Kopenhagen gearbeitet wird. Eisenchlorid, das natürlicherweise in der Luft vorkommt, setzt bei Sonneneinstrahlung Chloratome frei, die Methan abbauen.

Bereits die Abgase von Containerschiffen setzen Eisenemissionen über den Ozean frei, wo das Eisen mit dem Meersalz in der Luft zu Eisenchlorid reagiert. Die Forscher wollen nun testen, wie sich die Zugabe von zusätzlichen Eisenpartikeln in den Treibstoff, der von Schiffen verbrannt wird, oder das Sprühen von Eisenpartikeln in die Schiffsabgase auswirkt. „Der Einsatz von [Eisensalz-Aerosolen] durch den weltweiten Versand hat den Mehrwert, dass wir die vorhandene Infrastruktur nutzen können. Dies ermöglicht eine potenziell schnelle globale Verbreitung und Skalierung der Technologie zu relativ geringen Kosten“, so van Herpen. Das ist auch ein Vorteil gegenüber der CO2-Entfernung, die jetzt sehr teuer ist und viel Energie benötigt, was eine Skalierung zusätzlich erschwert.

Die Methode muss natürlich noch außerhalb des Labors getestet werden, aber die Forscher sind bereits in Gesprächen mit Schiffseignern, um den Prozess zu beginnen. Sie brauchen den Beweis, dass die Methode in der realen Welt funktioniert – und dass sie nicht unbeabsichtigt andere Probleme verursacht. Dabei darf jedoch nicht übersehen werden, dass die Dekarbonisierung der Wirtschaft angekurbelt werden muss. Im Falle jedoch, dass der Methan-Abbau funktioniert, könnte so das 1,5-Grad-Celsius-Ziel selbst ohne Eliminierung der CO2-Emissionen erreichbar werden.

Vielen Politikern ist gar nicht bewusst, dass diese Möglichkeit der Entfernung von Methan aus der Atmosphäre besteht. Es lohnt sich allerdings zu überprüfen, ob sich diese Technik tatsächlich als nützlich für das Klima erweisen kann.

fastcompany.com

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