Chasing Methane, an IndiaSpend initiative to track urban industrial methane emissions, and ignite public discourse on the issue

Why is it important to track methane?

Methane causes the second most radiative forcing effect, that is, warming, after carbon dioxide (CO2), in terms of the quantum of emissions of these greenhouse gases (GHGs). The warming effect of methane itself is 28 times that of CO2.

Methane is naturally occurring or biogenic, which means it is produced during decomposition of organic matter, including from vegetative wetlands and inland water systems (lakes, ponds, rivers), land geological sources (mud volcanoes, micro-seepage), wild animals, termites, thawing terrestrial and marine permafrost and oceanic sources. But today, less than half of global methane emissions are biogenic; the rest comes from human-caused emissions.

The interaction of gases like methane with sunlight produces tropospheric ozone, a harmful GHG which damages human health, plants and ecosystems. Increased concentrations of methane caused by human activity are a precursor to tropospheric ozone pollution. Tropospheric ozone pollution attributable to human emissions of methane causes approximately half a million premature deaths, globally.

Reduction in methane emissions thus have a direct and immediate benefit for public health via improved air and water quality.

What is #ChasingMethane?

We, at IndiaSpend, are launching a new project, #ChasingMethane, to track industrial methane emissions across Indian cities, built in partnership with Respirer Living Sciences, which monitors and maintains real time air quality data.

Given that it would be challenging, and unfair to India’s small and marginal farmers, who form 80% of the agricultural sector, to focus on reducing agriculture methane emissions, we are starting off with tracking urban industrial methane emissions. Through this project, IndiaSpend hopes to build a large system that can share methane emissions data in an open, transparent way, to foster a public discourse on this important issue.

In the first phase, we present data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 5-P satellite at 1110-metre resolution, along with an emissions inventory from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. Over the next few weeks, we will track methane emissions across Mumbai using low-cost sensors, and analyse the data. You can follow @IndiaSpendAir for regular updates on #ChasingMethane.