Kitty Litter Could Help Fight Climate Change

This kitten wants to reduce harmful greenhouse gases.

This kitten desires to reduce dangerous greenhouse gases.
Photo: Boonlert Saikrajang (Shutterstock)

MIT researchers have discovered that the clay that soaks up odors in kitty litter could be employed to get methane out of the air. The researchers place the zeolite clay in a copper answer to make a compound that absorbed methane and launched it as carbon dioxide, a a lot less powerful greenhouse gas.

The U.S. Office of Vitality gave the MIT workforce $2 million to carry on establishing the clay compound so that it can be extra to coal mine vents and dairy barns to get the methane before too significantly of it will get out into the ambiance, according to an MIT push release. Zeolite has tiny pores that act like sponge, and the clay is quite multifunctional: It can enable improve drinking water retention in soil, and it’s identified in pure kitty litter.

It could audio counterproductive to change methane into carbon dioxide, an additional greenhouse gas—but methane in the ambiance is about 80 occasions a lot more strong at locking in warmth than carbon dioxide. The Intergovernmental Panel on Local climate Modify reported past 12 months that lowering methane emissions need to be a best priority in the close to term.

Far more methane is being produced into the atmosphere today than any other time in recorded record. Numbers produced by the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration final thirty day period demonstrate that methane stages enhanced 7 parts for each billion in 2021. That is the most significant raise in a yr considering that researchers started recording in the early 1980s. The greenhouse gasoline can come from human pursuits and fossil gas tasks like abandoned oil wells, but it’s also unveiled from natural landscapes. As the poles soften thanks to a warming climate, the melting permafrost also releases methane into the ambiance.

As neat as the MIT team’s perform is, it’s not likely—at least not correct now—that it will be a highly effective weapon to conserve us from local climate transform. On 1 conclude, zeolite is rather low-cost, and the copper-and-clay option does not need to be heated as significant as other methane-absorbing solutions, so it’ll use fewer electricity. On the other finish, this thought is nonetheless in the exploration stage, and we’re speedily running out of time to mitigate local climate catastrophe.

A more rapid and impactful remedy is to reduce methane emissions by plugging the hundreds of oil and fuel wells that are carelessly leaking methane. And we have to have to focus on phasing out fossil fuels prior to our currently record-breaking emissions virtually blow up in our faces. The planet is by now on observe to see 1.5 degrees of warming in the subsequent four years. We need all the assistance we can get against methane emissions, but we really do not have time to hold out and see if this experimental tech will in fact perform just before performing on the methods we already have at hand.