A recent study shows a surge in methane emissions in recent years, after decades of being under control. What could this mean for all the global efforts regarding climate change?

Methane Emissions

In a new study, the American Geophysical Union said that the methane emissions saw a surge from 2014 to 2017. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that may be produced from cattle, decaying vegetation, fires, natural gas plants, and coal mines. It is more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of causing atmospheric warming but can be found in lower levels than carbon dioxide and breaks down more easily as well.

Methane emissions, particularly from fossil fuels, increased in the atmosphere during the 20th century, but it had been stabilized by the start of the 21st century. However, the new study found that methane emissions began increasing again since 2007. The rise accelerated in 2014 and has since continued.

Natural Chemicals In The Atmosphere

While researchers are unsure as to what exactly caused the increase, they surmise that intense farming in areas such as in Africa and other tropical regions may be involved in that the rising number of cattle produces more methane.

On the other hand, other experts are concerned that the increase may be because the natural chemicals in the atmosphere that help break down methane may be changing because of the increase in temperature, thereby making them less able to deal with the gas.

Simply put, it’s possible that the planet may be losing its capability to break down pollutants, possibly triggering even more warming.

Climate Change Efforts

What could this mean in terms of the global efforts to combat the effects of climate change?

Nations have since agreed to make serious efforts to keep the temperature rise to just 1.5 degrees Celsius, largely by cutting down on carbon emissions. This was hard enough as it is, but with increasing methane emissions coming into the mix of greenhouse gases, it will be even harder. If there is nothing that can be done about the methane emissions, then it’s possible nations will have to cut back even more carbon emissions.

“It is particularly alarming because we are still not sure why atmospheric methane levels are rising across the planet,” said Professor Euan Nisbet, one of the study’s lead authors, also noting that nations are facing a worrying problem, whether the rise in methane is due to an actual increase in emissions or whether the planet is losing its ability to break down the gas.

As such, it is imperative to unravel exactly what is going on as soon as possible.

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