Methane and Global Warming: How Methane Impacts the Environment

Methane and global warming work hand in hand, continuing to affect our planet. Methane gas is a toxic greenhouse gas. Specialists indicate that this is the main component of natural gas. Studies show that methane is 84 times more dangerous compared to carbon dioxide in the short term. Furthermore, if there occur methane leaks into the air, the gas will absorb the heat coming from the sun. Therefore, the atmosphere will become even warmer.

That is why scientists consider it a dangerous greenhouse gas, even more, toxic than carbon dioxide. The difference is that methane gas does not remain in the atmosphere for as long as carbon dioxide does. However, researchers show that this greenhouse gas is more devastating, having terrible effects and a great contribution to the climate change. Methane gas has a greater effectiveness in absorbing heat from the atmosphere.

However, both methane and carbon dioxide are gas emissions which need to be addressed to diminish the effects of global warming. Usually, methane gas may come from various sources, some being human-made and other natural ones. You should know that the oil and gas industry is the biggest source of industrial emissions.

The power of methane gas

Until recently, the world did not know much about methane leaks or how we should fix them.  Nevertheless, in 2012, scientists developed a research series to trace the leaks and tried to develop some solutions. The studies’ results indicated that to diminish the climate change effect, policymakers need to make major reductions in this industry. Furthermore, these reductions are feasible and urgent.

In May 2016, the EPA developed the first national rule that limited the emissions of methane gas coming from gas or oil operations. This new rule fueled the spark of a new opportunity to cut down on climate pollution.

Before that, in 2015, many environmental advocates did their best to show policymakers the destructive effects of methane gas on our atmosphere. They intended to diminish the use of methane gas, trying to annihilate its use to generate electricity in power plants. The main problem is the global warming potential (GWP). This potential helps experts to compare methane gas with carbon dioxide.

Scientists’ efforts

We all know that carbon dioxide emissions can last in the atmosphere for centuries. On the other hand, methane gas warms the atmosphere for 10 to 20 years. After that, it decays to carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, policymakers tend to ignore the warming potential of methane. Instead, they allow and fuel the warming impacts of methane over a century.

Therefore, the gas seems to be more benign than it actually is. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the 100-year warming potential (GWP100) measures 34. However, policymakers had chosen to ignore the global warming potential over 20 years when developing the country’s emissions inventory.

Specialists explain that there is no scientific reason why policymakers would choose a 100-year time horizon instead of choosing a 20-year time one. Their choice appears to be a matter of convention. Ilissa Ocko is a climate scientist at the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund. She argues that the value of the GWP100 underrates the destructive impacts of the gas by almost five times. The rapid warming triggered by the accumulation of methane gas in the atmosphere can severely affect the environmental process, like the flowering of plants.

Ilissa Ocko stated back in 2015 that the climate pollutants that remain in the atmosphere for a shorter period of time, like methane, and which are mitted due to human activities tend to control the warming process. These greenhouse gases determine how fast is the warming process.

Methane gas is extremely powerful when it comes to absorbing radiation. Back in 2015, some scientists together with EDF asked policymakers and the United Nations to avoid relying on GWP100. Their desire was to let experts use GWP100 and GWP20 as a pair.

A massive landfill with garbage and numerous white birds flying above it

Landfills are also responsible for the emissions of methane gas that warm our planet.

Image Source

Where does methane gas come from?

Researchers explain that it is true that most of the amount of methane gas comes from power plants’ leaks. However, there are other human-made and natural sources. For instance, this gas gets emitted by agriculture, due to the fact that workers plow the soil and let vegetable matter to rot. Another great source of methane gas comes from cows burping. Therefore, the farming industry is also responsible for the greenhouse emissions.

Livestock is known for causing many types of pollution, starting from air pollution and water pollution, always consuming great resources of food. If the number of vegetarians increases, then the amount of methane gas will decrease. There will be fewer farms and less livestock responsible for many environmental damages.

Experts highlight another major cause of methane gas emissions, namely landfills. If more and more people recycle, then the number of landfills will decrease. Ironically, the worst thing is that people cut down trees to create more landfills to deposit all the garbage while polluting the air and the soil. The warming effects of methane gas are increased due to its interaction with different aerosols like sulfate molecules.

Solutions to combat the amount of methane gases

Many policymakers and scientists talk about the solutions we could use to combat the effects of methane and global warming. However, they use too many words and very poor actions. It is true that these specialists made efforts to find out more about ways to stop this planet from warming up. If only all policymaker would listen to them!

Lawmakers should do their best to decrease the use of methane gas in power plants and to impose periodically checks to detect possible methane leaks. Those working the agriculture industry should pay attention when plowing the soil, avoiding to leave behind vegetable matter to rot. Furthermore, recycling efforts should be empowered while the number of the landfill should diminish.

Summing up

Most likely, many people have thought about these solutions, but very few acted on the matter. While we are waiting for policymakers and lawmakers to decide the fate of this planet regarding methane and global warming, we face the greatest weather catastrophes from the last decades.

Image Source: CleanTechnica

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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