Ozone Layer, Earth, Carbon sequestration, Ozone depletion, Atmosphere Methane: The Greenhouse Gas We Can No Longer Ignore
. If you are following the public conversation around climate change, then you know the focus has mostly been on reducing CO2 emissions, which is urgent., But if we wan na cool down the planet, we should also be paying attention to methane. Emissions. A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC for short, found that methane emissions have made a huge contribution to climate change.. The report suggests that 30 to 50 of the current rise in temperatures can be attributed to methane, which, as you might know, is a short lived gas that comes from agriculture. Cows, leaks from the oil and gas industry. zombie fires in the Arctic and landfills. Cutting methane emissions wont be the end all solution, but collective action could buy us some time in keeping the average global temperature increases below the 1.5 degrees Celsius mark compared to pre industrial Levels because in some parts of the world, rising temperatures risk detonating a methane time bomb of ancient greenhouse gas deposits., And we definitely dont want that to happen. So today, Ill break down. Some of the IPCC report findings. The threats methane poses and solutions to underline why we need to be talking about methane as much as were talking about CO2. dramatic music. According to the IPCC report, methane has been calculated to have added approximately 0.5 degrees Celsius to global warming.. Now the report found that human activity has resulted in approximately 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming. But where is all this methane coming from Well about 30 to 40 of methane is naturally produced from wetlands.
, But, as highlighted in the report, the rest is now coming from human activities. Things like raising cattle farms, rice production and landfills., Then theres the methane produced from The production, transportation and use of fossil fuels, which has seen a spike since the boom and fracking across the U.S. Now methane wouldnt, normally be of worry since it doesnt last as long in the atmosphere as CO2 does. Methane lasts approximately 12 years in the atmosphere, while Co2 can stay up there for centuries., But humans have caused an excessive amount of methane to be released into the air.. In 2019 it was reported that methane levels reached their record high, approximately two and a half times above what they were in pre industrial times.. Remember our goal as a planet is to try to limit the average global temperature change increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Above a pre industrial baseline. Methane could actually heat up the planet as much as CO2 does.. Basically, over a 20 year period, methane can be 84 times as powerful per unit of mass as carbon dioxide, so it has the muscle to be as threatening as CO2.. However, if we stop emitting additional methane into the atmosphere from what the earth already releases, naturally, then we can get emissions down to the level they were back in the mid 1700s before the Industrial Revolution started, pumping out greenhouse gases. Its thought that cutting methane emissions by 40 to 45 within the next decade could result in reducing the global increase by 0.
3 degrees by 2040., But beyond reducing average global temperature. Cutting methane emissions would also go some way towards reducing the production of ground level ozone, which is a key ingredient in harmful smog.. According to the UN Environment Programme, cutting annual emissions of methane by 45 could prevent 255000 premature deaths per year, which are traced to air pollution. Problems. Now remember that methane time bomb I mentioned before So thats a reference to the greenhouse gas deposits that have been trapped in the Arctic permafrost for centuries.. According to new research and satellite imagery of northern Siberia, heat waves started cracking limestone that used to be trapped under permafrost and releasing pockets of gas.. Until now, it seems like the released gas has been safely sequestered out of the atmosphere, but if we dont cut down on methane and CO2 emissions, the ice melts the rest of the ancient trapped methane gas is released and the planet gets hotter, which then means higher Temperatures higher risk of wildfires, higher sea levels, more flooding, all bad news., Its a feedback loop. We really need to avoid. sighs. This is when I say there is hope though.. So what are the solutions? Well, its tricky.. There are quick solutions like fixing leaks in the gas industry, which are easier to find thanks to new technology, putting soil on top of urban landfills to prevent crop waste fires and cutting on food waste.. But these solutions need to come through infrastructure policy and regulation.
. So the real pressure is on government and especially the oil and gas industry.. There needs to be more accountability when it comes to monitoring and repairing leaks, although ideally there wouldnt be any leaks, since we need to be shifting towards more renewable energy sources.. There also needs to be better policy around monitoring methane levels and how we deal with them like creating a separate process for methane along the lines of the Montreal Protocol, which is what helped to successfully regulate the ozone depleting gases. In the 80s., The annual Antarctic ozone hole has been shrinking by one to 3 per decade since 2000. And, although it isnt expected to close completely until 2050, the shrinkage is in part due to the efficacy of the Montreal Protocol. Weve, also seen methane solutions. Work before. In the U.S. efforts to collect gas from landfills saw methane emissions go down by 40 between 1990 and 2016., But then we got a different administration., dramatic music. Now, when it comes to consumers, theres, not a lot, we can do to help solve the methane issue.. One thing that will help, though, is if we consume less animal products like dairy and meat., For example, if we improve how livestock is fed and adopt new diets with less animal products, we can spare the planet up to 80 million metric tons of methane, a year.. So just remember: cutting CO2 emissions should still be the priority, but cutting methane emissions is just as urgent and could help us keep the planet.