Emissions of planet-warming methane have risen by 9% in the last decade

WION Web Team
New Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Jul 15, 2020, 09:59 AM IST


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Compared to the time period between 2000-2006, the world has produced 50 million additional tonnes of methane every year

Methane, a planet-warming gas responsible for a major portion of Earth’s global warming has taken up a lot more space than expected over the last decade.

An international study from July 15 has ascertained that the emissions of this poisonous gas have risen by at least nine per cent in the last ten years. The study attributed this to human activity and exploitation of resources for energy and food.

More warming than any other gas!

Methane (CH4) warms the planet more than any other gas, and contributed to Earth’s warming by over 28 more times than Carbon Dioxide.

Since the Industrial Revolution, which began in Europe and the United States as early as 1760, the gas concentration in the atmosphere has more than doubled.

Over the last 20 years, the gas has gained over 80 times potency.

Methane can also occur naturally in the environment, in terrain such as wetlands and lakes. However, over 60 per cent of methane emissions are now artificially occurring in the environment, implying it is manmade.

These can be divided into three categories: extracting and burning fossil fuels to generate power and electricity. Additionally, it is also caused by agriculture which involved livestock, along with management of waste.

2 degree celsius - the upper limit

According to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the temperature limit countries must commit to shall be “well below” two degree Celsius, which is above the Industrial Era levels.

Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, emissions will fall this year. However, atmospheric methane is increasing by 12 parts per billion every year. By 2100, the planet might witness warming of over 3-4 degree Celsius, as pointed out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

"Regular updates of the global methane budget are necessary ... because reducing methane emissions would have a rapid positive effect on climate," Marielle Saunois, a researcher at France's Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environment, who also headed the study, said in a briefing. "To meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement, not only do CO2 emissions need to be reduced but also methane emissions”, Saunois added.

50 research institutions around the world constitute the Global Carbon Project, which has collated data from 100 observation stations. Compared to the time period between 2000-2006, the world has produced 50 million additional tonnes of methane every year.

Out of these, over 60 per cent emanated from agriculture and waste. Additionally, 30 per cent were a result of digestive processes of cattle and sheep.

Also, 22 per cent release of methane is a product of burning oil and gas, while 11 per cent is a direct consequence of leaks from the world’s coal mines.

New studies suggest how methane leaks can be spotted using satellite data. Emissions may be higher than the ones accounted for in this study, which only traced data upto 2017.

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.