The threat of large methane and carbon dioxide releases from the lake is due to a rare seismic phenomenon, but it’s also part of a broader, growing threat of acute releases in the Arctic and elsewhere for which we need to be better prepared.
A volcanic eruption on the tectonic divide of the East African Rift near Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, is threatening to release the 60 billion cubic meters of methane and 300 billion cubic meters of carbon dioxide at the bottom of Lake Kivu. Expert scientists working on methane and CO2 abatement to fight climate change are available for comment and interviews on the situation. Lake Kivu is very deep and lacks upwelling, so the high pressure of the water has kept the methane and CO2 trapped at the bottom. Current seismic activity could change that, though there is still hope that it will not. But there are interventions that could be developed to help prevent CO2 from escaping the lake, which some of the experts below have suggested trying, and developing further to deal with similar threats in the future.
While limnic eruptions like the one threatening Lake Kivu rare, and due to seismic activity, not climate change, the potential impacts and the larger context of the crisis are connected to climate change. Methane is a powerful climate forcer, 84 times more potent a warming agent than carbon dioxide over 20 years. Other large releases of methane that could accelerate climate change are a growing threat as the planet warms, including from thawing permafrost in the Arctic. We’ll need to be prepared for such acute greenhouse gas releases, scientists say, and if we can’t prevent them from happening, we need to build the capacity to remediate them, for example by enhancing the oxidation of methane in the atmosphere.
The following scientists with special expertise in methane and CO2 abatement are available for comment on the Lake Kivu crisis:
Sir David King –Founder and Chair of the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge University. He is a Senior Strategy Adviser to President Kagame of Rwanda, working on the threats to local communities from Lake Kivu. Sir David served as the UK Government’s Special Representative for Climate Change (2013- 2017), and Chief Scientific Advisor (2000- 2007). During his tenure he raised awareness of the need for governments to act on climate change and was instrumental in creating the Energy Technologies Institute. He has published over 500 papers on science and policy, for which he has received numerous awards. Available for comment and interviews in French and English.
Renaud de Richter – A member of a team based at the Engineering School of Chemistry of Montpellier University, which takes a wide-spectrum engineering approach to climate solutions. He and his co-authors were the first to propose two different methods to remove several greenhouse gases at a climatically significant scale, notably methane. The list of his scientific peer reviewed publications is here. Available for comment and interviews in French and English.
Franz Oeste – Chemical engineer, developer and co-patent-holder of the iron salt aerosol (ISA) method of depleting CO2, methane and other short-lived greenhouse gases, and lead author of the primary peer-reviewed article on the subject. He conceived the method while helping Bangladesh villagers whose wells were contaminated with arsenic, and realized the connection between methane and other pollutants. Available for comment and interviews in German.
Maarten van Herpen – Scientific Advisor, Methane Action. Founder and former director of Philips Africa Innovation Hub, and founder of Acacia Impact Innovation whose work includes humanitarian innovation and climate action focusing on the Arctic and on methane reduction. He served on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council for Social Innovation, and holds over 100 patents. His research can be found on Google scholar and on ORCID. Available to answer questions over email. Languages: English, Dutch German.
When & Where?
These expert sources are based the Netherlands, France and the UK, and can give comments and interviews on request. For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Stephen Kent, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 914 589 5988.
Photo Credit: Taken youtube video posted by chave weather.