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Levels of methane in our atmosphere are rising and scientists haven’t yet been able to pinpoint the cause. And while scientists love a good mystery this particular one is pretty starting considering that methane is a potent greenhouse gas. As the LA Times reported, twenty years ago the level of methane in the atmosphere stopped increasing, giving humanity a bit of a break when it came to slowing climate change. But the concentration started rising again in 2007 — and it’s been picking up the pace over the last four years, according to new research.
Phys also explained that methane is produced when dead stuff breaks down without much oxygen around. In nature, it seeps out of waterlogged wetlands, peat bogs and sediments as well as from forest fires. In addition:
Human activities churn out about half of all methane emissions.
Leaks from fossil fuel operations are a big source, as is agriculture—particularly raising cattle, which produce methane in their guts.
Even the heaps of waste that rot in landfills produce the gas.
The atmosphere contains far less methane than carbon dioxide. But methane is so good at trapping heat that one ton of the gas causes 32 times as much warming as one ton of CO2 over the course of a century.
Why This Matters:Euan Nisbet, an Earth scientist at Royal Holloway, University of London, and lead author of a recent study reporting that the growth of atmospheric methane is accelerating doesn’t yet know why there’s such an uptick in methane. Some molecules of methane weigh more than others, because some atoms of carbon and hydrogen are heavier than others. And Nisbet’s research has found that lately, the average weight of methane in the atmosphere has been getting lighter which seems to implicate biological sources such as wetlands and livestock. This could be for a variety of reasons such as the fact that climate change could be causing permafrost in the tundra to melt and release methane, but more research needs to be done to reach a conclusion.
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer An Indonesian district court ruled yesterday that Indonesian President Joko Widodo has neglected Jakarta’s residents right to clean air. In a unanimous ruling in favor of the 32 residents who brought the case, the Central Jakarta District Court ordered Widodo, and six other top officials deemed negligent, to improve […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Decreasing air pollution increases people’s life expectancy by an average of 2.2 years, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of Chicago found that by bringing pollution across the globe down to the World Health Organization’s guidelines, a collective 17 billion years could be added to the planet’s population’s […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer As the Caldor Fire burns through the El Dorado National Forest, the area around Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nevada, has developed the worst air quality in the county. On Monday, the Air Quality Index hit 694 in Tahoe City. An AQI above 300 is considered hazardous and can cause serious health issues. The […]
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