Global warming

Methane emissions rise 9% in decade

Agence France-Presse, Agence France-Presse
Methane emissions rise 9%  in decade

This NASA illustration image obtained March 25, 2020 shows NASA’s new three-dimensional portrait of methane, the world’s second-largest contributor to greenhouse warming, as it arises from a diversity of sources on the ground and how it moves through the atmosphere. - Combining multiple data sets from emissions inventories, including fossil fuel, agricultural, biomass burning and biofuels, and simulations of wetland sources into a high-resolution computer model, researchers now have an additional tool for understanding this complex gas and its role in Earth’s carbon cycle, atmospheric composition, and climate system. (Photo by Handout / NASA / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /NASA/SCIENTIFIC VISUALIZATION STUDIO/HANDOUT " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

NASA handout

Methane has a warming potential 28 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period

Emissions of methane — a planet-warming gas several times more potent than carbon dioxide — have risen by 9% in a decade driven by mankind’s insatiable hunger for energy and food, a major international study concluded Wednesday, July 15,

Methane (CH4) has a warming potential 28 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period and its concentration in the atmosphere has more than doubled since the Industrial Revolution.

Over a 20-year period, it is more than 80 times as potent.

While there are a number of natural methane sources such as wetlands and lakes, the team behind the study concluded that 60% of CH4 emissions are now manmade.

These sources fall principally into 3 categories: extracting and burning fossil fuels for power, agriculture including livestock, and waste management.

The 2015 Paris climate agreement saw nations commit to limit temperature rises to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 Farenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

While emissions are expected to fall somewhat this year due to the pandemic, the levels of atmospheric methane are increasing by around 12 parts per billion each year.

This trajectory is in line with a scenario modelled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that sees Earth warming as much as 3-4C by 2100.

“Regular updates of the global methane budget are necessary … because reducing methane emissions would have a rapid positive effect on climate,” said Marielle Saunois, a researcher at France’s Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environment and lead on the study.

“To meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement, not only do CO2 emissions need to be reduced but also methane emissions.”

The Global Carbon Project, a consortium of more than 50 research institutions around the world, has gathered data from more than 100 observation stations.

The world now produces around 50 million additional tons of methane every year than it did between 2000-2006.

Around 60% of manmade CH4 emissions were estimated to come from agriculture and waste, including as much as 30% from the digestive processes of cattle and sheep.

Twenty-two percent comes from the extraction and burning of oil and gas, while 11% leaks from the world’s coal mines, the study found.

But recent studies based on new techniques for spotting methane leaks using satellite data suggest that emissions from the oil and gas sector may be significantly higher than those shown in the study, which only included data through 2017.

Short-term threat

While the overall trend is upwards, emissions levels fluctuate between regions.

For instance, Africa, China and Asia each produce 10-15 million tons annually. The US churns out around 4-5 million tons.

Europe is the only region where methane emissions are falling — between 2-4 million tons since 2006, depending on the estimation method.

The United Nations says that to hit the more ambitious Paris target of a 1.5-C warming cap, all greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 7.6% annually this decade.

“The 20 year framework (of methane’s warming effect) may be more appropriate given our policy goals,” said Saunois. –