Munich’s Oktoberfest Does Not Have Excessive Methane Emissions

Another example of failing to grasp the “compared to what?” point here. Apparently Munich’s Oktoberfest has some horrible amount of methane emissions. Clearly, drinking beer and singing along to Ooompah Bands will have to be stopped in the name of saving Gaia. Or, alternatively, this is nonsense on lederhosen clad stilts:

For the millions of people who descend on Munich for the annual bash, Oktoberfest is a celebration of beer, bands and bratwurst.

But as the dust settles for another year on the world’s largest folk festival, and die Bierleichen (“beer corpses”) return to the land of the living, environmental scientists have released the first analysis of methane emissions from the 16-day party.

Researchers at Technical University in Munich walked and cycled around the perimeter of the festival last year with mobile sensors aloft. The instruments found the event emitted nearly 1,500kg of methane – 10 times the amount that wafted off Boston, Massachusetts, in the same period.

The scientists attributed most of Oktoberfest’s emissions to leaks and incomplete combustion in cooking and heating appliances. Though an appreciable part of the rise in the gas, about 10%, was attributed to the flatulence and burps of attendees.

Not that this next comparison is entirely accurate either – not all people who go go for all the time – but it is a useful still counterpoint.

Some 6 million people go to Oktoberfest. The population of Boston Massachusetts is some 600,000. Ten times as many people emit 10 times as much methane?

There’s a reason to have science departments in the universities, isn’t there?

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Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

Population stats are tricky. Are they talking about the city of Boston (~600,000) or Greater Boston (nearly 5 million)? Mind you, Munich (pop ~1.5 m) gets through quite a lot of beer and sausages even outside Oktoberfest.

Global CH4 emissions (of which around half is anthropic, half natural) are estimated to be >500 Mt pa, so 1.5 t isn’t even a rounding error.

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

0.00017% of the atmosphere is comprised of Methane and its atmospheric residence time is approximately 5-8 years. It is supposedly 20 times more potent than CO2 as a green house gas, however, methane has a very as narrow energy absorption band which is overlapped by water vapour. Water vapour therefore almost completely absorbs any radiation that methane might in a completely dry atmosphere.

As a green house gas it is almost totally irrelevant, any worries about it, cows or indeed beer festivals is just hot air.