Atmospheric Methane Research Funding Opportunities

Accelerating scientific exploration of potential atmospheric methane removal approaches towards climate risk mitigation.

Applications are now open.

Exploratory Solicitation

Atmospheric methane removal approaches are being explored, in response to potential large-scale natural methane releases, to determine if and how methane in the atmosphere can be broken down faster than with existing natural sinks alone.

Funding Opportunities

Open

Exploratory Grants for Atmospheric Methane Research

Advancing understanding of atmospheric methane sinks and potential atmospheric methane removal approaches. 

Read the Solicitation

This scientific funding opportunity provides researchers with grants up to $300,000 per award to support research with transformative potential for advancing understanding of existing methane sinks and potential atmospheric methane removal approaches.

It’s designed to facilitate further scientific advances in atmospheric chemistry, biology, climate modeling, materials science, and sensor development, enabling more researchers to focus on these challenges.

This funding opportunity currently has two confirmed rounds. The submission deadlines are March 1, 2024 and June 2, 2024 for round one and round two, respectively. More rounds may be added in the future.

"Although existing methane mitigation approaches are needed globally, temperature stabilization by mid-century may also require new greenhouse gas removal technologies.... Beyond anthropogenic emissions, we also cannot ignore the possibility of accelerated methane release from natural systems, such as widespread permafrost thaw or release of methane hydrates from coastal systems in the Arctic. Such Earth-system feedbacks could require methane removal to offset releases even if anthropogenic emissions are reduced substantially."

Jackson et al. 2021 “Atmospheric methane removal: a research agenda”

Why Atmospheric Methane Research?

Atmospheric methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, is rising at an accelerated rate, and is currently contributing ~0.5°C to global warming. Achieving any of our climate targets depends on quickly reversing this trend. The primary driver of increasing atmospheric methane concentration is anthropogenic emissions, from fossil fuels, agriculture, and waste. Atmospheric methane levels are also driven by natural methane emissions, already rising, and its atmospheric and terrestrial sinks which may change over time.

We must do everything we can to reduce anthropogenic methane emissions and atmospheric methane levels. Despite methane causing one third of anthropogenic global warming, methane mitigation efforts currently receive less receive less than 4% of international climate philanthropy. Reducing the climate impact of methane as much and as rapidly as possible will take a portfolio of efforts, all of which need dramatically more support: 

  1. Deploying available anthropogenic emissions reductions strategies alongside new incentives, regulations, education, and financing.
  2. Innovating new strategies to reduce anthropogenic emissions.
  3. Researching evolving atmospheric and biological sinks and potential strategies to mitigate increasing natural methane emissions including (but not limited to) atmospheric methane removal.

Rapidly expanding work on each of these areas is critical. Outside of these RFPs, efforts by Spark and other leaders in the field are focused on methane emissions reductions. However, research towards understanding potential atmospheric methane removal approaches is particularly nascent and will take years. Additional support now will be transformative to scientific understanding of future methane sinks and potential atmospheric methane removal approaches, and timelines on which approaches could become available. None of these approaches are currently ready for deployment.

Methane has about a decade-long atmospheric lifetime due to various methane sinks, including atmospheric processes and bacterial consumption. Better understanding of methane sink dynamics and possible ways of augmenting them may offer future pathways to shorten methane’s atmospheric lifetime and help address climate-change-induced natural methane emissions and mitigate overall climate risk. Approaches to enhance methane’s sinks include harnessing methanotrophs, atmospheric radicals, or catalysts to break down methane. However, much more scientific research is needed for each of these approaches.

Read “Atmospheric methane removal: a research agenda” Jackson et al. 2021Learn More

Atmospheric Methane Removal Approaches and Potential

Scientific exploration of these approaches is just beginning — we don’t yet know if any of these approaches may be feasible, safe, and highly-scalable, and there are undoubtedly potential approaches that haven’t yet been discovered. A major goal of this program is to accelerate scientific exploration in this emerging field towards the identification, assessment, and advancement of possible approaches. There are multiple current categories of potential approaches, leveraging atmospheric chemistry, microbiology, and materials science, each needing further scientific assessment, and in some cases, technological breakthroughs to achieve feasibility. Many mechanisms of potential methane sink enhancement are yet to be explored at all. 

Potential atmospheric methane removal methods depend on oxidation of methane, accelerating its conversion to carbon dioxide or biomass, rather than capture and removal. As a result, storage and transportation aren't required, and there aren't reversal risks. Energy requirements of these systems can also be much lower than the cost of separation.

Learn more about the current state of potential approachesRead and contribute example research problem statements

Who’s behind Spark’s Atmospheric Methane Research Funding Opportunities?

The grant program was designed and is being managed by Spark Climate Solutions, in partnership with our expert advisors. The funding program is supported by the Grantham Foundation. Spark’s work across atmospheric methane and other areas is supported by all of our philanthropic partners.

Our Exploratory Grants opportunity is inspired by previous ‘fast grants’ funding programs, and our friends at Homeworld Collective’s approach to open research problem statements.

Additional funding will extend the number of grants and rounds available through this program and other RFPs planned as part of Spark’s Atmospheric Methane Research program. Contact us if you’re interested in getting involved.

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Open Roles In This Area

We're looking for talented, strategic, climate-motivated, and scientifically-driven colleagues to join our team at Spark, across a number of areas, including the following roles related to the Methane Removal program:

Program Lead, Atmospheric Methane

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