The impact of methane on the greenhouse effect. 1 accurate article make it clear!

The impact of methane on the greenhouse effect

The Russian undersea natural gas pipeline was bombed and leaked a large amount of methane. Will it affect the world’s climate and cause the greenhouse effect?

The impact of massive methane leaks

On September 26, local time, Russia’s Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 natural gas transmission pipelines located in the waters near Denmark and Sweden exploded at the same time, causing a large amount of natural gas to leak. Denmark and Sweden launched emergency investigations and released a report on September 30. It was pointed out that the leakage of the natural gas pipeline was caused by an underwater explosion equivalent to hundreds of kilograms of explosives. The explosion intensity was 2.3 and 2.1 on the Richter scale respectively. These explosions were deliberate.

These are two roughly parallel submarine natural gas pipelines starting from Russia and connecting to Germany. They pass through the waters near Denmark and Sweden and are more than a thousand kilometers long. They are an important channel for Russian natural gas to be exported to Europe. The pipelines have been damaged, and one has to be bought and the other has to be sold. Of course, the biggest impact is on Russia and Europe, which indicates that this winter will be difficult for everyone.

Which country, organization or individual planned and caused this incident? The international public opinion is in a quarrel, and some big countries are also blaming each other. Today we will not discuss which country or people are responsible. We will only objectively analyze this incident from a scientific perspective and what impact it will have on the future climate.

As the saying goes, if the city gate catches fire, the fish in the pond will be affected. Don’t think that many events happening in the world will not have any impact on us because they are far away from us. In fact, there is a butterfly effect, and the uncertain factors in chaos will amplify each event.

Just like a group of fish that were leisurely enjoying the fish, they suddenly saw the city gate bursting into flames. They thought that they had nothing to do with it, and they only rushed to peek in and watch the excitement. Unexpectedly, the people who fetched water to put out the fire came and quickly scooped up the water in the pool. , the fish died before he understood what was going on.

Who knows whether what happens in those distant places in the world will one day affect us? Therefore, when we see something, we must not think that it has nothing to do with us, but we should still care and pay attention to it. Therefore, today we are concerned about the impact that a natural gas leak in the Baltic Sea will have on the world.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas emitted during natural gas production and combustion processes
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas emitted during natural gas production and combustion processes

Greenhouse gases

The earth is experiencing a climate warming disaster, and the culprit is greenhouse gases.

The so-called greenhouse effect means that the earth’s atmosphere is like a large glass cover covering the earth. When sunlight radiates energy to the earth’s surface through the glass cover, the atmosphere and the earth will absorb part of it, and most of it will be reflected back to space. Because of this glass cover, part of it will be blocked, which will keep the earth’s temperature at a higher temperature.

The earth’s atmosphere has always had a greenhouse effect. Without the atmosphere, the average surface temperature would drop to minus 23 degrees Celsius. For hundreds of years, the annual average temperature on the earth’s surface has remained around 15 degrees Celsius, and people can live comfortably in this home. This is a balance between solar radiation and absorption and reflection.

But as the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increases, this balance is broken. If water vapor is excluded, the contribution rate of other major greenhouse gases is: carbon dioxide (CO2) accounts for about 55%. Methane (CH4) accounts for about 15%. Nitrous oxide (N2O) accounts for about 6%. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), also known as Freons, account for about 24%.

It can be seen that, except for these major greenhouse effect gases, the contribution of other gases is very small and almost negligible. Greenhouse gases can absorb more infrared radiation, that is, the energy from the sun that hits the earth will be reflected back into space in the form of infrared radiation. As more and more of it is trapped by greenhouse gases, the temperature of the earth will naturally increase.

The main cause of the increase in greenhouse gas concentration is the burning process of fossil fuels during human activities, which produces a large amount of greenhouse gases and continuously accumulates in the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases have been mainly produced since human industrialization. According to historical monitoring, due to the rapid increase in greenhouse gases caused by industrialization, the average surface temperature has increased by about 1 degree Celsius compared with before industrialization.

Despite this small change, melting glaciers have caused sea levels to rise, extreme weather has occurred frequently, and climate disasters have become more and more frequent. In the increasingly serious greenhouse effect, in addition to carbon dioxide, methane plays an important role in promoting

The greenhouse effect of methane is 10 to 26 times that of carbon dioxide. However, because the concentration of methane in the atmosphere is much smaller than that of carbon dioxide, only about 1/160 of the latter, it takes a back seat to its contribution to the greenhouse effect. The concentration of Freon in the atmosphere is much lower than that of methane, but because its greenhouse effect is 3,400 to 15,000 times that of carbon dioxide, its contribution rate is much higher than that of methane.

Scientific research shows that the threshold for temperature rise is 3 degrees Celsius, which means that a 3-degree increase in temperature compared to pre-industrial times is the critical point. When this critical point is reached, the earth’s climate self-regulation system will collapse, extreme climate disasters will occur, mass extinction of species will be inevitable, and humans will not be able to escape.

As a result, reducing the greenhouse effect and slowing down or stopping temperature rise have become the consensus of countries around the world. To achieve this, we need to save energy and reduce emissions, and ultimately achieve carbon balance. The most important thing now is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. Since methane has a much higher greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide, reducing methane emissions is more important than reducing carbon dioxide emissions by the same amount.

Under this severe situation, the leakage of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline is tantamount to exacerbating the greenhouse effect. Methane accounts for about 85% of the composition of natural gas, and the rest is ethane and propane, accounting for about 12%. They are all highly capable greenhouse gases. Therefore, the issue of this leak is not whether it has any impact, but the size of the impact.

What is the impact of this methane leak?

According to media reports, on the day of the Nord Stream submarine pipeline explosion, operators saw a rapid drop in pressure, and soon the bubble escaping from the Baltic Sea reached a width of 1 kilometer. This shows that the leaked natural gas escaped from the seabed to the surface and was dispersed into the atmosphere.

Because these two sections of pipeline are out of service, the natural gas in the pipeline was stored in the pipeline to maintain pressure in the pipeline, and now all has escaped. It has been estimated that the total amount of methane leaked is approximately 115,000 tons. As a result, some industry experts are sounding climate alarms.

Andrew Baxter, a former oil and gas industry engineer who is now director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Energy Center in New York City, believes the leak collectively affected the annual carbon emissions of 2 million vehicles. Two million cars is about the same as the number of cars in a large or medium-sized city. This kind of emissions will certainly not change the world pattern.

Zeke Hausfeather, a geoclimatic scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, also pointed out that although this is the largest natural gas leak in one place in history, overall, it does not fundamentally change the scale of global emissions. However, because the methane leaked this time is concentrated in one area, and there is a process of dilution and diffusion, it is likely to affect the local climate in the leaked area.

In fact, from a common sense point of view, we can also get this result. We know that the total mass of the atmosphere is about 6000 trillion tons. The main ones are nitrogen and oxygen, which account for about 99% of the atmospheric composition. The remaining 1% is composed of dozens of other gas molecules and water vapor, of which carbon dioxide accounts for 0.032% and methane accounts for 0.0002%.

In other words, there are 12 billion tons of methane in the total mass of the atmosphere. The methane leaked this time was about 115,000 tons, accounting for only about 0.001% of the total atmospheric methane. The global annual methane emissions reach 50 million tons (including animal farts). No matter how you look at it, the methane leaked this time is a very small figure, and of course it will not fundamentally change anything.

Even so, incidents like this have once again sounded the alarm for mankind. We should see that this kind of accident is not unique. Many accidents are happening or will continue to happen, such as forest fires and wars. It is precisely the accumulation of many such events that will change the world.

Spacetime Communications believes that only by sounding the alarm can we gradually reduce carbon emissions and eventually achieve carbon neutrality. And only in this way can mankind have the 22nd century. The goal of the Paris Agreement is to control temperature rise within 2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. To achieve the goal, countries around the world must work together and rely on everyone’s change and participation.

Therefore, we must always ask ourselves, in addition to sighing about the geometry of life while drinking, what else can we do for the future of mankind? According to researchers, eating less meat and driving less will result in less farting and less emissions. How many people can do this? Discussions are welcome.

The greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere, leading to global warming
The greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, leading to global warming

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