Record-high methane emissions could spawn natural disasters this century

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Record-high methane emissions could spawn natural disasters this century

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Methane emissions soar to record high. Human activity is believed to be the primary cause.

New research published earlier this year shows that 2019 was the second warmest year recorded in history. As it turns out, that was only the tip of the global-warming iceberg. 

According to a study published in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, the increase in potent greenhouse gas between 2000 and 2017 suggests that there will be a 3-4 C increase in global warming before the end of the century – consistent with the warmest marker scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

The reason behind the changes is likely to be due to the growth of methane emissions from coal mining, oil and natural gas production, cattle and sheep ranching, and landfills. 

More than 50 percent of all methane emissions now come from human activities. Yearly methane emissions are up by an alarming 9 percent since the early 2000s, a period when methane emissions were still under control. Agriculture is believed to be accountable for approximately two-thirds of all methane emissions, while fossil fuels contribute a majority of the remaining one-third. 

Although carbon emissions have decreased since the Covid-19 pandemic began—due to the decrease in manufacturing and transportation demands—methane emission rates still stand at the original amount.

“There’s no chance that methane emissions dropped as much as carbon dioxide emissions because of the virus,” Rob Jackson, one of the authors of the study, told Science Daily. “We’re still heating our homes and buildings, and agriculture keeps growing.”

The brunt of the impact of the increased emissions is felt by Africa, the Middle East, China, South Asia, and Oceania, which includes Australia and many Pacific islands. These regions have seen a distressing increase of 10 to 15 million tons per year in methane emissions. 

Europe, on the other hand, is the only known region to have seen a decrease in methane emissions. “Policies and better management have reduced emissions from landfills, manure, and other sources here in Europe. People are also eating less beef and more poultry and fish,” said Marielle Saunois of the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin, France to Science Daily. 

According to researchers, curbing methane emissions will require a reduction in fossil fuel use and controlling erratic emissions such as leaks from pipelines and wells, as well as modifications in the agricultural department, primarily in the manner farmers feed cattle and grow rice.

Written by

Maheep Chawla

Maheep is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She is pursuing a major in Psychology. Previously, she has interned with a pre-school for children with special needs based in New Delhi. In the past, she has also written for her campus newspaper and the editorial department at UBC’s Psychology Student Association.