Rising methane may thwart efforts to avoid catastrophic climate change

cow farm
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

If the world were on track to meet the Paris Agreement goal of less than 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, methane levels in the atmosphere would theoretically be dropping. Instead, they have been rising since 2007, and shooting up even faster since 2014. A perspective published in the journal Science discusses the potential causes and consequences of our planet's out-of-control methane.

Methane decays in the atmosphere faster than does, but it is a far more powerful greenhouse gas. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a molecule of methane will cause 28-36 times more warming than a molecule of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. Recent data shows that methane concentrations in the atmosphere have risen from about 1,775 parts per billion in 2006 to 1,850 parts per billion in 2017.

The emissions targets in the Paris Agreement were based largely on data from the 1990s and early 2000s, when methane levels were flatter, said Sara Mikaloff Fletcher, a with New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in Wellington and first author of the new article. The only emissions scenario that achieves Paris Agreement goals in assumes that methane levels have been declining since 2010, when in fact they have been rising since 2007, she said. There may be other ways of keeping climate change under 2 degrees Celsius, but they would involve compensating for rising methane with more drastic cuts to other greenhouse gases.

Scientists aren't sure why methane levels are rising. A 2017 study attributes about half of the increase to cows and other ruminant livestock, which burp methane as they digest food. Another contributing factor could be that people are releasing more fossil fuel emissions while burning less wood and other biomass.

In Mikaloff Fletcher's view, the most alarming possibilities are the ones we have little control over. Rising temperatures could be triggering wetlands to release more methane, and changes in atmospheric chemistry could be slowing the rate at which breaks down.


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More information: Sara E. Mikaloff Fletcher et al. Rising methane: A new climate challenge, Science (2019). DOI: 10.1126/science.aax1828
Journal information: Science

This story is republished courtesy of Inside Science. Read the original story here. Used with permission. Inside Science is an editorially independent news service of the American Institute of Physics.

Citation: Rising methane may thwart efforts to avoid catastrophic climate change (2019, June 18) retrieved 20 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-06-methane-thwart-efforts-catastrophic-climate.html
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Jun 18, 2019
Or it could be from decomposition of methane ice as arctic oceans and permafrosts warm up. (But they don't want to confirm that one yet, as its a dangerous positive feedback factor in GW.)
They are also very quiet over the many, many years it takes for one years CO2 to get back to ground level and be absorbed by vegetation; as this factor also shortens the time we have to act on GW. (As any CO2 savings have a long delayed action effect.)

These factors make 2050 deadlines ridiculous, and make adding new airport runways and ongoing oil prospecting look suicidal.

The 'L' in the Drake equation; for the lifetime of a technical civilisation is looking shorter in our case: And may explain why SETI hasn't found any other intelligences yet: Greed, stupidity and environmental blindness may be common in the galaxy.

Jun 18, 2019
And may explain why SETI hasn't found any other intelligences yet


It was 7 degrees C warmer in the Jurassic with huge life forms everywhere.

You're mentally ill.

Jun 18, 2019
And may explain why SETI hasn't found any other intelligences yet

It was 7 degrees C warmer in the Jurassic with huge life forms everywhere.

You're mentally ill.

What a fruitcake. Again Grandpa lost 1 extra braincell today repeating the same drivel day after day (wait he has any left ??)

Life flourished in the Eocene, the Cretaceous and other times of high CO2 in the atmosphere because the greenhouse gasses were in balance with the carbon in the oceans and the weathering of rocks. Life, ocean chemistry, and atmospheric gasses had MILLIONS of years to adjust to those levels.

RAPID carbon emissions (just like today) were highly destructive to life on Earth back then

tpb
Jun 18, 2019
In 11 years, the increase in methane is equivalent to an increase of CO2 of 3ppm and methane persists for approximately 10 years. This is a non-problem.

Jun 18, 2019
Methane has a large effect but for an estimated lifetime of 9.1 years in the atmosphere, whereas carbon dioxide has a small effect for a long period, having an estimated lifetime of over 100 years.
(Methane emissions have 28 times the impact on temperature as the same mass of carbon dioxide over the 100 years.)

That sounds like a problem to me..
https://en.wikipe...ouse_gas

Jun 18, 2019
Life flourished in the Eocene, the Cretaceous and other times of high CO2 in the atmosphere because the greenhouse gasses were in balance with the carbon in the oceans and the weathering of rocks. Life, ocean chemistry, and atmospheric gasses had MILLIONS of years to adjust to those levels.


The temperature was 7 degrees C higher you moron. Who cares why.
Idiots trying to be smart.

Jun 18, 2019
Here is a picture of Greenland. Their temp maxed at 17C yesterday. (22 degrees C above normal)
The sled dogs are shown paddling in the melt on top of the 1.2m thick sea ice.
https://twitter.c...15237120

This is what happens with the 0.75C rise we have already caused. Do you honestly believe it is safe to keep doubling air travel every 20 years? Or increase by 7C when its already hitting 50C in India and killing people??

Jun 18, 2019
Here is a picture of Greenland.


Banks still give out 30 year mortgages in Miami.

That fact makes you an alarmist fool.

Jun 18, 2019
Or it could be from decomposition of methane ice as arctic oceans and permafrosts warm up.

The 'L' in the Drake equation; for the lifetime of a technical civilisation is looking shorter in our case: And may explain why SETI hasn't found any other intelligences yet: Greed, stupidity and environmental blindness may be common in the galaxy.

Recently, it was found even more improbable for life to arise anywhere.
Methane from permafrost is a gigantic potential contributor, things are already bubbling away.
And, methane from Fracking is a huge contributor, petro co's have thrwarted attempts for years to report Methane. Plus all the old wells are leaking methane like crazy...capped tho' they may seem.

Jun 18, 2019
here is another ' picture of Greenland ' , u can change the yr and see its pretty normal

https://earth.nul...9,72.837


Jun 19, 2019
I suppose that we should be grateful that during our lives we have yet to experience the harmful effects of global warming but for our children it seems there is no hope.

Jun 19, 2019
Here is a picture of Greenland. Their temp maxed at 17C yesterday. (22 degrees C above normal)



1000 years ago Viking were raising cattle barley and wheat on Greenland. Then it got too cold. It is still too cold.

Oh, yeah, you wouldn't know normal if it bit you in the algore.

Jun 20, 2019
Life flourished in the Eocene, the Cretaceous and other times of high CO2 in the atmosphere because the greenhouse gasses were in balance with the carbon in the oceans and the weathering of rocks. Life, ocean chemistry, and atmospheric gasses had MILLIONS of years to adjust to those levels.


The temperature was 7 degrees C higher you moron. Who cares why.
Idiots trying to be smart.


This must be the joke of the century, clearly bonkers here cannot comprehend 1 word that was said to explain why Rapid climate change today is beyond devastating.

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