Sapiens has trouble with timescales of planetary forces. Greenland Ice Sheet
Fossil fuels and agriculture have driven methane emissions to record highs across the globe claim two new studies. Methane is a colorless gas and comes from natural and human-made sources. The gas is a danger to humans because it traps heat into the atmosphere exacerbating the climate crisis and forms ground-level ozone, which is dangerous to our health.
Methane, the primary component of natural gas, spends twelve years in the atmosphere. That is significantly less than CO2, which lingers for over a century. But per unit, methane is twenty times more potent than CO2.
Between 2000 and 2017, levels of the potent greenhouse gas barreled up toward pathways that climate models suggest will lead to 3-4 degrees Celsius of warming before the end of this century. This is a dangerous temperature threshold at which scientists warn that natural disasters, including wildfires, droughts and floods, and social disruptions such as famines and mass migrations become almost commonplace. The findings are outlined in two papers published July 14 in Earth System Science Data and Environmental Research Letters by researchers with the Global Carbon Project, an initiative led by Stanford University scientist Rob Jackson.
In 2017, the last year when complete global methane data are available, Earth’s atmosphere absorbed nearly 600 million tons of the colorless, odorless gas that is 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat over a 100-year span. More than half of all methane emissions now come from human activities. Annual methane emissions are up 9 percent, or 50 million tons per year, from the early 2000s, when methane concentrations in the atmosphere were relatively stable.
In terms of warming potential, adding this much extra methane to the atmosphere since 2000 is akin to putting 350 million more cars on the world’s roads or doubling the total emissions of Germany or France. “We still haven’t turned the corner on methane,” said Jackson, a professor of Earth system science in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth).
Global methane emissions have risen nearly 10% over the past two decades, resulting in record-high atmospheric concentrations of the powerful greenhouse gas.
In 2017, the latest year for which comprehensive data are available, global yearly emissions of the gas reached a record 596 million tonnes, according to scientists with the Global Carbon Project, which tracks changes in greenhouse gases.
Annual emissions have increased by about 50 million tonnes from the 2000–06 average, mainly driven by agriculture and the natural-gas industry, the scientists report in two papers1,2 on the global methane budget, released on 14 July. Atmospheric concentrations of the gas — 1,875 parts per billion last year — are now more than 2.5 times above pre-industrial levels (see ‘Record high’).