Environment

Humans responsible for much higher methane emissions than estimated

Humans responsible for much hi...
An ice core being removed to study historic methane emissions
An ice core being removed to study historic methane emissions
View 3 Images
An ice core being removed to study historic methane emissions
1/3
An ice core being removed to study historic methane emissions
Andrew Smith (L) and Jon Edwards work to study historic methane emissions from ice samples
2/3
Andrew Smith (L) and Jon Edwards work to study historic methane emissions from ice samples
Mike Jayrad (L) Tanner Kuhl, Ice Drilling and Development Organisation (IDDO) drillers
3/3
Mike Jayrad (L) Tanner Kuhl, Ice Drilling and Development Organisation (IDDO) drillers
View gallery - 3 images

It mightn't get the attention that carbon dioxide does, but methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas that we know to be a powerful contributor to global warming. A new study suggests we may have been severely underestimating how much human activity is driving it into the atmosphere, however, uncovering evidence that human-caused methane emissions are as much as 40 percent higher than previously estimated.

While methane isn't nearly as abundant in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is much more effective at trapping heat, making it more than a bit-part player in climate change. The gas can arise from many sources, such as the fertilizer industry, agriculture, fossil fuels and the production of oil and gas, and new analysis from an international team of researchers indicates we have been emitting far more than we thought.

The project, led by scientists at the University of Rochester and involving researchers from Australia's CSIRO, involved using advanced mass spectrometry techniques to study isotopes in air trapped in the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets since pre-industrial times.

Andrew Smith (L) and Jon Edwards work to study historic methane emissions from ice samples
Andrew Smith (L) and Jon Edwards work to study historic methane emissions from ice samples

More specifically, the researchers detected and counted the carbon-14 isotope in the samples, which is absent from natural sources of methane such as geological seepage, and could therefore be used to distinguish between these sources and the methane generated by human activity.

This was combined with data collected from ice core samples that were used to track trends in methane sources over the last 200 years. This new analysis revealed that pre-industrial sources of emissions were only a fraction of what we previously thought them to be, at most around 10 percent of our earlier estimates.

This suggests that as we entered the industrial age things picked up considerably, with modern, human-related sources of methane making up a far larger portion, as much as 25 to 40 percent more, according to the researchers, who have found a silver lining to the new findings.

"The additional methane emissions now attributed to fossil fuel are consistent with recent research quantifying the methane coming from coal mines, oil and gas production, and fossil fuel use," says Dr Etheridge. "These findings help to reduce uncertainty and present a significant opportunity to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Being a relatively short-lived gas compared to carbon dioxide, atmospheric concentrations of methane would respond quickly to reduced emissions."

The research was published in the journal Nature.

Source: CSIRO

View gallery - 3 images
6 comments
Cryptonoetic
By definition, only humans can be responsible for all that is physically wrong with the world. Furthermore, applying standard rules of WOKEness permits the "responsibility" group to be more correctly identified by excluding the "oppressed" who, by definition, cannot possibly be responsible for anything physically wrong with the world. What's left over is the "enemy" of the earth. This exclusive root cause of all that is physically wrong with the world must be cancelled before we can expect to see the earth recover from the damage that has been done.
Cryptonoetic
By definition, only humans can be responsible for all that is physically wrong with the world. Furthermore, applying standard rules of WOKEness permits the "responsibility" group to be more correctly identified by excluding the "oppressed" who, by definition, cannot possibly be responsible for anything physically wrong with the world. What's left over is the "enemy" of the earth. This exclusive root cause of all that is physically wrong with the world must be cancelled before we can expect to see the earth recover from the damage that has been done.
neoneuron
Methane gas has one of the fewest carbon atoms of any fuel. It burns with almost no black smoke. It's easy, and the power you would use is to gather it. Sewer processing plants can make it from people's poo. If you insulate the vessel, you can regulate the temperature to get maximum methane production for free - no heating. It's just a bio-reaction, Clean to make... In 1964, there was this British guy who was able to make methane in his barn. He was able to compress it into a liquid using a regular compressor. And he drove all around England in his methane powered automobile.
I hate the way they vilify methane. Other fuels are bad for the atmosphere when they get loose and un-burnt.. What's the big deal about Methane if handled properly??
Douglas Rogers
Of the greenhouse effect on the Earth, 95% is from water vapor and the rest is mostly split between CO2 and methane.
aksdad
And yet nature is still apparently unbothered by the latest cry of alarm about global warming, er, "climate change". The long-term (27-year) sea level trend +3.1 mm per year (measured by satellite, about 2 mm by tide gauge), down from 3.4 mm per year just a couple years ago and the long-term (40-year) temperature trend is about 1.3° C per century.
Signguy
The Matrix had it right when the main guy said he discovered the biggest problem is that humans are like a virus or bacteria; reproduce and destroy...