The role of methane in global warming should not be underestimated. 1 article amazing makes it clear!

The role of methane in global warming should not be underestimated

When it comes to global warming, carbon dioxide will first make headlines, but considering the status of methane as a potent greenhouse gas, its role in global warming and climate change should not be underestimated because The Harm of the Greenhouse Effect on the Earth It enormous.

In October 2022, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization issued an annual greenhouse gas bulletin warning that the atmospheric levels of the three major greenhouse gases, namely carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, which caused global warming, reached historic highs in 2021. Among them, since the start of systematic monitoring nearly 40 years ago, methane concentration in 2021 has seen the largest year-on-year increase.

How methane affects global warming

The two key characteristics that determine the impact of different greenhouse gases on climate are the length of time the gas stays in the atmosphere and the ability to absorb energy. People all know that The principle of the greenhouse effect Methane has a much shorter lifespan in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, with a residence time of about 12 years, while carbon dioxide has been in the atmosphere for centuries. However, methane absorbs much more energy in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Therefore, in the atmosphere, methane is the second most anthropogenic greenhouse gas produced after carbon dioxide.

The sources of methane can be roughly divided into two categories: natural sources and methane emissions generated by human activities. The former mainly comes from wetlands, forest fires, etc. The latter includes emissions from agriculture, energy, and petrochemical industries, as well as the generation and disposal of human excrement. In the past 200 years, due to the rapid increase in human activities, the concentration of methane in the atmosphere has surged at an astonishing rate. Modern methane monitoring methods have shown that the current methane content in the environment is approximately 2.5 times higher than before the Industrial Revolution.

For a long time, the scientific community has had a high degree of uncertainty in estimating methane emissions. During the period from 2000 to 2007, the concentration of methane in the atmosphere seemed to stabilize, which sparked ongoing debate on whether methane in the atmosphere was the main driving factor of climate change.

However, after 2007, the concentration of methane in the atmosphere began to continue to rise. The current measurement results indicate that methane concentration in the atmosphere will continue to rise. The latest comprehensive assessment provided by the Global Methane Budget shows that global methane emissions are approximately 58 billion tons per year, including emissions from natural sources (approximately 40% of emissions) and emissions from human activities (known as anthropogenic emissions, accounting for 60%).

In February 2022, scientists from Stanford University published their research findings in the Environmental Research Letters, stating that on a 100-year time scale, humans may have greatly underestimated the impact of methane, a “short-term climate pollutant,” on the climate.

The impact of global warming is becoming more evident
The impact of global warming is becoming more evident

Reasons for removing methane to prevent global warming

Methane is a concern because it has a huge impact on the climate. In an article published in August 2021 in Nature, it was stated that the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere is more than 200 times that of methane. Although methane only accounts for a small part of the atmosphere, its ability to absorb heat in the Earth’s atmosphere is about 80 times that of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after release.

Its decomposition rate is also much faster than carbon dioxide, with an average lifespan of about 10 years, while the average lifespan of carbon dioxide is several hundred years. Since the pre-industrial era, methane has contributed as much as 0.5 ℃ to global warming, second only to carbon dioxide.

The chemical structure of methane is very effective in absorbing heat, which means that a slight increase in methane content in the atmosphere can have a significant impact on the degree and speed of global warming. This is a daunting reality, but it also offers enormous opportunities.

Due to the short residence time of methane in the atmosphere, when emissions decrease, its concentration in the atmosphere decreases relatively quickly, which can greatly suppress temperature rise. Therefore, some experts believe that reducing methane emissions may be the easiest way to change the path of global temperature change in the next 10 years. A 2021 United Nations report suggests that reducing anthropogenic methane emissions is one of the most cost-effective strategies to rapidly reduce global warming rates and make a significant contribution to global efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5 ℃.

To reduce methane emissions, scientists have been studying two related issues. Firstly, what are the main sources of methane? Secondly, where is the most serious impact? Livestock is the largest source, accounting for 31% of the global total. Oil and natural gas followed closely behind, emitting 26%. Other sources include landfills, coal mines, rice paddies, and water treatment plants.

Among the natural sources of methane emissions, it is particularly noteworthy that although permafrost systems are not the largest methane emission sources, they are highly susceptible to the impact of climate change. In a warmer future, the proportion of methane emissions from these systems may significantly increase. Studies have estimated that methane released into the atmosphere from permafrost terrestrial ecosystems in the northern hemisphere each year accounts for approximately 25% of the total methane released in nature worldwide. On the other hand, reducing the methane produced by livestock is a huge challenge.

People can eat less meat, but convincing them to change their dietary habits is often difficult. In addition, as income increases, meat consumption in low-income and middle-income countries is also increasing. From this perspective, it seems relatively easy to curb emissions from other industries. Considering that energy and the petrochemical industry are the two main sources of methane emissions, freeing humans from dependence on fossil fuels may become a huge step in controlling methane concentration in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Conclusion on Preventing Global Warming

As long as carbon dioxide continues to be emitted into the atmosphere, global warming will continue. But controlling the emissions of methane and other potent greenhouse gases may reduce the burden, and people should do their best to alleviate it The burden of methane on the greenhouse effect

An analysis published on September 27, 2021, in the Philosophical Transactions A of the Royal Society showed that eliminating the strong greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans over three years would lower global surface temperatures by about 0.21 ℃, reduce atmospheric ozone levels, and prevent approximately 50000 premature deaths annually. This discovery opens the door to direct comparison with carbon dioxide removal, and the scientific community has conducted relevant research that may help shape future national and international climate policies.

We must take action to combat global warming
We must take action to combat global warming

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