Methane oxidation, biogenic carbon, and the IPCC’s emission metrics. Proposal for a consistent greenhouse‑gas accounting

Muñoz I, Schmidt J (2016)

Publication info

International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 21:1069–1075

Abstract

Purpose

The fifth assessment report by the IPCC includes methane oxidation as an additional indirect effect in the global warming potential (GWP) and global temperature potential (GTP) values for methane. An analysis of the figures provided by the IPCC reveals they lead to different outcomes measured in CO2-eq., depending on whether or not biogenic CO2 emissions are considered neutral. In this article, we discuss this inconsistency and propose a correction.

Methods

We propose a simple framework to account for methane oxidation in GWP and GTP in a way that is independent on the accounting rules for biogenic carbon. An equation with three components is provided to calculate metric values, and its application is tested, together with the original IPCC figures, in a hypothetical example focusing on GWP100.

Results and discussion

The hypothetical example shows that the only set of GWP100 values consistently leading to the same outcome, regardless of how we account for biogenic carbon, is the one proposed in this article. Using the methane GWP100 values from the IPCC report results in conflicting net GHG emissions, thus pointing to an inconsistency.

Conclusions

In order to consistently discriminate between biogenic and fossil methane sources, a difference of 2.75 kg CO2-eq. is needed, which corresponds to the ratio of the molecular weights of CO2 and methane (44/16). We propose to correct the GWP and GTP values for methane accordingly.

Online view-only version: https://rdcu.be/6tJL

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