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Rise in Methane Emissions Threatens Paris Agreements

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The levels of methane in the atmosphere are rising with rapid and unexpected rates.

Methane is one of the greenhouse gases that contribute greatly to changes in climate. Although the gas has much shorter life-span than carbon dioxide, methane is much more powerful when it comes to damaging the ozone layer. According to the latest report by the UN climate science panel, one tonne of the gas is considered to have 28 times the global warming potential of one tonne of carbon dioxide.

A decade ago, scientists were convinced that by reducing the use of oil and gas, we will practically control the levels of methane in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, recent statistics show the opposite. In 2018, they recorded an increase by 10.77 parts per billion, which is the second largest jump we have observed for the last 20 years.

The more concerning part of this is that no one is even sure why this is happening. There are some speculations, however there are no sufficient data to support the arguments. According to scientists from NOAA (US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the concentrations of the gas are nearing the levels measured in the 1980s. Since then, there have been fluctuations but not as huge.

The most likely source of such large quantities of methane would be mismanagement and misuse of large wetland areas. When protected and undisturbed, these areas act as traps for methane, keeping it safe underground. It is important to note, however, that increase in temperature could cause methane to escape from wetland areas naturally. Unfortunately, there is no sufficient evidence to support the accusation, therefore it still stands as a theory.

Another possibility is the intensive agriculture, which has increased in the last few years in order to meet the growing demands. The continuous use of fossil fuels, of course, still plays a major part as well.

The bottom line is, if the concentrations continue to increase with such disturbing rates, the agreements that were made in Paris would seem like a distant dream. Let’s hope that scientists will identify the problem sooner.

Image (c) Getty

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1 COMMENT

  1. Leaks around the natural gas wells is also a known source, and natural gas usage has seen a huge increase recently with more and more natural gas power plants that could match this rise in concentration.

    I agree though that we need more data at this stage:

    Permafrost lands are also releasing methane when temperatures rise. These soils contain about half the (rotting) organic material of all soils on Earth.
    There’s also natural methane clathrate in the oceans, including in the Arctic which has seen a higher temperature rise than most other oceans.

    NB: The site interface, like for these comments, is in Romanian.

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