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科学家发现美国的垃圾填埋场是“垃圾千层面”

SUNNY NAGPAUL
2024-07-07

一项新研究显示,垃圾填埋场排放的甲烷是之前认为的三倍。这种温室气体的变暖效应比二氧化碳强得多。

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图片来源:YUNAIDI JOEPOET—GETTY IMAGES

美国垃圾填埋场及其对环境造成的破坏规模庞大。目前大约有1200个垃圾填埋场在运营,平均每个填埋场占地约600英亩(约合2428112平方米),相当于480个足球场。

垃圾填埋场也是废物的温床,从腐烂的蔬菜残渣、肉骨头到破旧的家用电器,这些垃圾会产生大量的甲烷。这种温室气体在20年的时间里对全球气候的变暖效应是二氧化碳的80倍。

发表在《科学》(Science)杂志上的一项新研究发现,垃圾填埋场的甲烷排放量是之前向联邦监管机构报告的排放量的三倍。再加上甲烷的高效力,这项研究的发现提供了新证据(证据量在不断增加),表明全球各地的垃圾填埋场是如何严重加剧全球变暖的,并强调了改革垃圾填埋场基础设施和美国人处理垃圾方式的必要性。

这项研究使用了一种新技术——成像光谱仪,该仪器通过测量电磁辐射来探测和测量地球大气的变化过程,收集了该国20%的大型垃圾填埋场的甲烷排放数据。在这项技术问世之前,对甲烷排放量的估算主要基于计算机模型,而根据这项研究,考虑到每个垃圾填埋场的独特情况及其运营监督,这种模型并不理想。先前报告的甲烷排放量估计值可能低于实际值,原因是人工测量垃圾填埋场的排放量是极其危险的,需要工人带着手持传感器在垃圾场周围走动。

垃圾填埋场通常堆放着一层又一层的垃圾,从腐烂的食物残渣和塑料到家用电器和纸张,这些垃圾一堆就是几十年。当食物垃圾最终被埋在这些垃圾层中时,它们会在没有太多氧气的情况下分解,从而释放出甲烷。

该研究的主要作者、亚利桑那大学(University of Arizona)的气候科学家丹尼尔·科斯沃思(Daniel Cusworth)说,“有时,垃圾填埋场下的垃圾一埋就是几十年。”正如他在接受《纽约时报》采访时所说,“我们称之为垃圾千层面。”

在最常见的大气温室气体中,甲烷并不是含量最大的,也不是在大气中持续时间最长的,但其强大的变暖效应是最常见的温室气体二氧化碳的80倍。这意味着它会显著加剧全球变暖,进而引发与气候变化相关的事件,如强烈风暴、海平面上升、热浪和干旱,而这些只是可能发生的灾难的一部分。

在这项新研究中,科学家们利用飞机低空飞行和成像光谱仪收集数据,测量空气中甲烷的浓度或羽流。2018年至2022年期间,飞机飞越了18个州和250多个垃圾填埋场。在调查的一半以上的垃圾填埋场中,研究人员发现了甲烷热点,这表明填埋场出现了问题,比如长期埋藏的垃圾中有大量甲烷泄漏。

许多垃圾填埋场都有用来收集甲烷泄漏的井和管道,这些气体有时会被收集起来燃烧发电或供热。有了这项研究中使用的新技术,垃圾填埋场运营商和联邦监管机构将更容易找到甲烷泄漏点并将其燃烧。

美国国家环境保护局(The Environmental Protection Agency)认为,垃圾填埋场是美国第三大人为甲烷污染源,到2022年,其排放量约占总排放量的14%,相当于2400万辆汽车的年排放量。根据海洋和大气研究组织(Oceanic and Atmospheric Research,研究影响地球的系统的组织)的数据,目前大气中的甲烷的含量(以十亿分之一为单位)比工业化前的水平高出160%以上。

高水平的甲烷会导致与气候有关的灾难,同时也会给生活在垃圾填埋场附近的野生动物和家庭带来健康风险,包括气味、烟尘、烟雾和水源污染。更糟糕的是,那些生活在低收入地区的人最有可能承受这些风险,而且他们没有足够的财力反对垃圾填埋设施的建设。

诚然,垃圾填埋场改革是当务之急,但改变人们处理厨余垃圾的方式也能有效减少垃圾填埋场的甲烷排放。例如,经过堆肥处理的厨余垃圾会进行好氧或有氧分解,由于氧气的存在,这一过程不会释放甲烷。

垃圾填埋场、农业、石油和天然气生产等行业是甲烷排放量最大的行业,近年来一直受到科学家和环保人士的密切关注。化石燃料研究和倡导组织国际石油变革组织(Oil Change International)最近研究了美国和欧洲八大国际石油和天然气生产商的气候计划和承诺,发现这些计划都与将全球升温控制在比工业化前水平高1.5摄氏度的范围内的目标不一致。科学家警告说,一旦突破这一门槛,将会产生灾难性的后果。(财富中文网)

译者:中慧言-王芳

美国垃圾填埋场及其对环境造成的破坏规模庞大。目前大约有1200个垃圾填埋场在运营,平均每个填埋场占地约600英亩(约合2428112平方米),相当于480个足球场。

垃圾填埋场也是废物的温床,从腐烂的蔬菜残渣、肉骨头到破旧的家用电器,这些垃圾会产生大量的甲烷。这种温室气体在20年的时间里对全球气候的变暖效应是二氧化碳的80倍。

发表在《科学》(Science)杂志上的一项新研究发现,垃圾填埋场的甲烷排放量是之前向联邦监管机构报告的排放量的三倍。再加上甲烷的高效力,这项研究的发现提供了新证据(证据量在不断增加),表明全球各地的垃圾填埋场是如何严重加剧全球变暖的,并强调了改革垃圾填埋场基础设施和美国人处理垃圾方式的必要性。

这项研究使用了一种新技术——成像光谱仪,该仪器通过测量电磁辐射来探测和测量地球大气的变化过程,收集了该国20%的大型垃圾填埋场的甲烷排放数据。在这项技术问世之前,对甲烷排放量的估算主要基于计算机模型,而根据这项研究,考虑到每个垃圾填埋场的独特情况及其运营监督,这种模型并不理想。先前报告的甲烷排放量估计值可能低于实际值,原因是人工测量垃圾填埋场的排放量是极其危险的,需要工人带着手持传感器在垃圾场周围走动。

垃圾填埋场通常堆放着一层又一层的垃圾,从腐烂的食物残渣和塑料到家用电器和纸张,这些垃圾一堆就是几十年。当食物垃圾最终被埋在这些垃圾层中时,它们会在没有太多氧气的情况下分解,从而释放出甲烷。

该研究的主要作者、亚利桑那大学(University of Arizona)的气候科学家丹尼尔·科斯沃思(Daniel Cusworth)说,“有时,垃圾填埋场下的垃圾一埋就是几十年。”正如他在接受《纽约时报》采访时所说,“我们称之为垃圾千层面。”

在最常见的大气温室气体中,甲烷并不是含量最大的,也不是在大气中持续时间最长的,但其强大的变暖效应是最常见的温室气体二氧化碳的80倍。这意味着它会显著加剧全球变暖,进而引发与气候变化相关的事件,如强烈风暴、海平面上升、热浪和干旱,而这些只是可能发生的灾难的一部分。

在这项新研究中,科学家们利用飞机低空飞行和成像光谱仪收集数据,测量空气中甲烷的浓度或羽流。2018年至2022年期间,飞机飞越了18个州和250多个垃圾填埋场。在调查的一半以上的垃圾填埋场中,研究人员发现了甲烷热点,这表明填埋场出现了问题,比如长期埋藏的垃圾中有大量甲烷泄漏。

许多垃圾填埋场都有用来收集甲烷泄漏的井和管道,这些气体有时会被收集起来燃烧发电或供热。有了这项研究中使用的新技术,垃圾填埋场运营商和联邦监管机构将更容易找到甲烷泄漏点并将其燃烧。

美国国家环境保护局(The Environmental Protection Agency)认为,垃圾填埋场是美国第三大人为甲烷污染源,到2022年,其排放量约占总排放量的14%,相当于2400万辆汽车的年排放量。根据海洋和大气研究组织(Oceanic and Atmospheric Research,研究影响地球的系统的组织)的数据,目前大气中的甲烷的含量(以十亿分之一为单位)比工业化前的水平高出160%以上。

高水平的甲烷会导致与气候有关的灾难,同时也会给生活在垃圾填埋场附近的野生动物和家庭带来健康风险,包括气味、烟尘、烟雾和水源污染。更糟糕的是,那些生活在低收入地区的人最有可能承受这些风险,而且他们没有足够的财力反对垃圾填埋设施的建设。

诚然,垃圾填埋场改革是当务之急,但改变人们处理厨余垃圾的方式也能有效减少垃圾填埋场的甲烷排放。例如,经过堆肥处理的厨余垃圾会进行好氧或有氧分解,由于氧气的存在,这一过程不会释放甲烷。

垃圾填埋场、农业、石油和天然气生产等行业是甲烷排放量最大的行业,近年来一直受到科学家和环保人士的密切关注。化石燃料研究和倡导组织国际石油变革组织(Oil Change International)最近研究了美国和欧洲八大国际石油和天然气生产商的气候计划和承诺,发现这些计划都与将全球升温控制在比工业化前水平高1.5摄氏度的范围内的目标不一致。科学家警告说,一旦突破这一门槛,将会产生灾难性的后果。(财富中文网)

译者:中慧言-王芳

YUNAIDI JOEPOET—GETTY IMAGES

America’s landfills—and the environmental havoc they create—are sizable. There are roughly 1,200 landfills currently in operation, and on average, each one takes up about 600 acres of land, the equivalent of 480 football fields.

Landfills are also a hotbed for waste, from decomposing vegetable scraps and meat bones to worn household appliances, which produce copious amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas with a warming effect 80 times as powerful as carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

A new study published in the journal Science found the rate of methane emissions from landfills is three times as large as the rate previously reported to federal regulators. In combination with methane’s high potency, the study’s findings add to a growing body of evidence about how landfills around the globe significantly contribute to global warming and highlight the need for reforms, both in the infrastructure of landfills and the way Americans dispose of waste.

The study used a new technology, an imaging spectrometer, which measures electromagnetic radiation to detect and measure processes in the Earth’s atmosphere, to collect data on methane emissions from 20% of the country’s largest landfills. Before the advent of this technology, estimates of methane emissions were based mostly on computer models, which, according to the study, are less than optimal, given the unique circumstances of each landfill and its operational oversight. Previously reported methane emission estimates are also likely lower than reality, as a result of the dangerous nature of manually measuring emissions at landfills, which require workers to walk around dumps with handheld sensors.

Landfills often contain layers upon layers of garbage, encompassing everything from decomposing food scraps and plastic to household appliances and paper, that pile up for decades. When food waste ends up buried in these layers, it decomposes without much oxygen and, as a result, releases methane.

“You can sometimes get decades of trash that’s sitting under the landfill,” according to Daniel Cusworth, the lead author of the study and a climate scientist at the University of Arizona. As he told the New York Times, “We call it a garbage lasagna.”

Among the most common atmospheric greenhouse gases, methane isn’t the most abundant or the longest-lasting in the atmosphere, but its potent warming effect is 80 times as powerful as the most common greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. That means it can significantly contribute to global warming, and in turn, spur climate-change–related events, such as intense storms, rising sea levels, heat waves, and drought, which are just some of the catastrophes that can occur.

In the new study, scientists collected data using airplane flyovers and imaging spectrometers to measure concentrations, or plumes, of methane in the air. Planes flew across 18 states and over 250 landfill sites between 2018 and 2022. At more than half of the landfills surveyed, researchers detected methane hotspots that suggest something had gone wrong at the site, like a big methane leak from long-buried trash.

Many landfills contain wells and pipes meant to capture methane leaks, and the gases are sometimes then collected and burned to produce electricity or heat. With the new technology used in the study, landfill operators and federal regulators will more easily be able to pinpoint and flare methane leaks.

The Environmental Protection Agency considers landfills to be the third-largest source of human-caused methane pollution in the country, accounting for roughly 14% of these emissions in 2022 and equal to the yearly emissions of 24 million cars. Atmospheric levels of methane, which is measured in parts per billion, are now more than 160% higher than preindustrial levels, according to Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, a group that investigates systems affecting the planet.

The high levels of methane will contribute to climate-related disasters while also posing health risks to wildlife and families who live near landfills, including odors, smoke, smog, and water-supply contamination. What’s worse is those living in low-income areas are most likely to live with those risks, and have fewer financial resources to oppose the placement of waste facilities.

To be sure, landfill reforms are a pressing need—but changes in how people dispose of food waste can also be impactful in reducing methane emissions at waste sites. Food waste that is composted, for example, undergoes an aerobic, or oxygenated, decomposition, a process that doesn’t release methane owing to the presence of oxygen.

Industries like landfills, agriculture, and oil and gas production are among the sectors that emit the most methane, and have been under intense scrutiny by scientists and environmental activists in recent years. Oil Change International, a fossil fuel research and advocacy group, recently examined climate plans and pledges from the eight largest U.S.- and European-based international oil and gas producers, and found that none of the plans were compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels—a threshold scientists warn will have disastrous effects when breached.

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