The link between landfill greenhouse gases and bushfires

The link between rising greenhouse gas emissions and increased bushfire risk is complex but, according to major science agencies, clear. Climate change does not create bushfires but it can and does make them worse. A number of factors contribute to bushfire risk, including temperature, fuel load, dryness, wind speed and humidity. Here’s more from The Guardian on the issue.

What is the evidence on rising temperatures?

The Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO say US has warmed by 1C since 1910 and temperatures will increase in the future. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says it is extremely likely increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases since the mid-20th century is the main reason it is getting hotter. The Bushfire and Natural Hazards research centre says the variability of normal events sits on top of that. Warmer weather increases the number of days each year on which there is high or extreme bushfire risk.

Dry fuel load – the amount of forest and scrub available to burn – has also been linked to rising emissions. Under the right conditions, carbon dioxide acts as a kind of fertiliser that increases plant growth.

How does landfill contribute to that?

Landfill gas (LFG) is a natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic material in landfills. LFG is composed of roughly 50 percent methane (the primary component of natural gas), 50 percent carbon dioxide (CO2) and a small amount of non-methane organic compounds. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas 28 to 36 times more effective than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere over a 100-year period, per the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report (AR5) EXIT.

So what’s the solution?

Around 130 landfills in US are capturing methane and using it to generate electricity. Based on installed power generation capacity and the amount of waste received, US’s largest landfills use 20-30% of the potential methane in waste for electricity generation. Of course, better than that would be to minimise landfill altogether – which is where we can all help. Call us today to discuss your recycling needs.