As science and modern technology have improved, so has our awareness about the epidemic of climate change. One of the main contributors to climate change is a dramatic increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. When people hear the term “greenhouse gas” they generally imagine Carbon dioxide (C02). However, the gas methane is 23 times more potent than C02, and unlike C02, it is invisible to the human eye. If you’ve ever passed a factory smokestack and wondered why there was no ominous billowing smoke, chances are it was emitting methane. Another major contributor is the agricultural industry, in which the gas byproduct of grazing livestock can be attributed for 14% of atmospheric methane, and this number is only expected to grow with an increase in demand driven by growing populations (Silverman). A new advancement in the field of infrared imaging can help scientists quantify just how much methane is being produced at specific data points including at waste disposal sites, factories, and barns housing cows and other grazing livestock. Before this advancement, methane emission data could only be obtained from satellite imaging which only show concentrations of methane in certain areas, rather than pinpoint and quantify the sources.
The camera, which detects infrared signals from gas emissions that are either hotter or colder than the surrounding air, can be used from up to 700 meters away, allowing it to be used from helicopters to quantify methane outputs from sources such as lakes or forests (Hadlington). The implications of this advancement are endless in the field of environmental science, and I think it will help scientists learn how methane is cycled in our atmosphere, as most of this process is still unknown.
In previous years, society has been in the dark about exactly how things like daily transportation, agriculture, and power generation adversely affect the environment. Now with advancements such as infrared cameras that can detect previously invisible threats, we can work on reducing these emissions. Whether it be stricter production regulations, lower emission standards, or developing more efficient parts, hopefully with this advancement we come one step closer to reducing one of the greatest threats mankind faces in future generations. Businesses may object to stricter regulations if it negatively affects their bottom line as it often necessitates buying more efficient equipment, operating plants for fewer hours, etc, however if the camera can prove methane emissions are too high, the businesses should face repercussions.
Methane emissions from Barn captured on Infrared Camera
Hadlington, Simon. "New Camera Sees Invisible Greenhouse Gas." Scientific American. N.p., 16
Dec. 2015. Web. 06 Feb. 2016.
Silverman, Jacob. "Do Cows Pollute as Much as Cars?" HowStuffWorks. N.p., 16 July 2007. Web.
08 Feb. 2016.