Why Is Methane Bad For Global Warming

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and its emissions have grown exponentially over the past decades. As one of the most impactful contributors to global warming, it is essential to understand why methane is bad for the environment, and what can be done to reduce its emissions.

Methane is one of the most powerful and influential greenhouse gases, trapping 28 times more solar energy than carbon dioxide.1 For example, when fuel is burned, it releases carbon dioxide (CO2). In contrast, organic matter—such as plants, manure, and landfills—that is broken down by microorganisms in anaerobic conditions emits methane.2 Though smaller amounts shake the atmosphere, this potent gas has the power to intensify global warming and lead to ever-ailing environmental disasters.

Quantitatively, a single molecule of methane is 28 times more impactful than a carbon dioxide molecule over a 100-year period.3 Over time, methane breaks down into carbon dioxide and water vapor and eventually dissipates, but the planet won’t exist that long if humans continue to be careless and ignore nature. As of 2019, human activities are responsible for approximately 60% of global methane emissions, according to a study in the journal Nature Climate Change.4 It is clear that the magnitude of its threat to our climate is greater today than ever before.

Long-lived methane sources include leaking pipelines and fossil fuel extraction, along with landfills, cattle farming, and rice paddies. Human-caused methane levels can be substantially reduced with better management of fossil fuel and agricultural resources,5 making it crucial to deploy advanced-level infrastructure and practices that maximize methane recovery while reducing emissions. Furthermore, global policies that encourage transitioning to sources of renewable energy—such as wind, solar, and hydropower—show potential in mitigating the negative impacts of rising methane levels.6

In an effort to reduce methane emissions, many countries are beginning to embrace new technologies, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS). This involves capturing the methane from coal, natural gas, and oil operations and storing it instead of releasing it to the atmosphere.7 CCS technologies are relatively new and can be expensive, but their effectiveness over time could be key to curbing methane levels. Additionally, investing in green energy sources, creating energy efficiency standards, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices are all strategies that could help alleviate global warming’s intensity.

Ultimately, methane is a damaging and highly disruptive global environmental issue that requires substantial attention. Every human on Earth must take steps to reduce their own carbon footprint, and to assist those in need of assistance in this emotional and harrowing battle. With the necessary dedication, fortitude, and global awareness, future generations can enjoy the lavish beauty of Earth that is continuing to be threatened by human activities.

References:

1. EPA (2016). Methane. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved Oct. 28, 2020, from https://19january2021snapshot.epa.gov/ghgemissions/methane

2. Herreid, C. F. (2020). The carbon cycle. University of California Museum of Paleontology. Retrieved Oct. 28, 2020, from http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/carbon/sources.html

3. Matthews, J. (2020). What is Global Warming? The Balance. Retrieved Oct. 28, 2020, from https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-global-warming-4176743

4. Kampe, B. et al. (2019). Global anthropogenic methane emissions estimated with ground-based and satellite measurements. Nature Climate Change, 9:400-407. http://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-019-0487-1

5. EU (2020). What is methane? European Union. Retrieved Oct. 28, 2020, from https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/gases/methane_en

6. IEA (n.d.). Renewables in global energy supply. International Energy Agency. Retrieved Oct. 28, 2020, from https://www.iea.org/topics/renewables/

7. AMA (2020). Carbon capture and storage (CCS). American Physical Society. Retrieved Oct. 28, 2020, from https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/200805/energy.cfm

Joseph Pearson is a passionate advocate for global warming, ecology and the environment. He believes that it is our responsibility to be stewards of the planet, and take steps to reduce our environmental impact. He has dedicated his life to educating people about the importance of taking action against global warming and preserving our natural resources

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