Methane Emissions Soar, Agriculture Likely to Blame
By Alex Kirby
One year ago today, with huge relief, scarcely able to believe their achievement, world leaders finally agreed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.
But a bare 12 months later comes sobering news: Atmospheric concentrations of another gas, methane, are growing faster than at any time in the last 20 years, putting further pressure on the historic Paris agreement to deliver substantial cuts in emissions very soon.
Methane is the second major greenhouse gas, with agriculture accounting for 40 percent of emissions.Neil H / Flickr
Some scientists say the world now needs to change course and do more about methane to have a chance of keeping average global temperatures from rising by more than 2 C.
And one seasoned Arctic watcher said the changes there in the last decade are altering a system which has remained intact since the Ice Age.
Atmospheric levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, are spiking, scientists report https://t.co/geboH10O1W https://t.co/6f2PgzdtcH— Post Green (@Post Green)1481501636.0
Methane is the second major greenhouse gas, with agriculture accounting for 40 percent of emissions. Over a century it is 34 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (though far less abundant), but over 20 years methane is 84 times more potent than CO2.
In an editorial in the journal Environmental Research Letters, an international team of scientists reports that methane concentrations in the air began to surge around 2007 and grew steeply in 2014 and 2015. In those two years concentrations rose by 10 or more parts per billion annually. In the early 2000s they had been rising by an annual average of 0.5 ppb.
#Obama Administration Finalizes Rule to Reduce #Methane Pollution, But What Will #Trump Do? https://t.co/gkNzI8qn58 @Wilderness @Earthworks— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1479307938.0
The scientists say the reason for the spike is unclear, but they think it may be the consequence of emissions from agricultural sources and mainly around the tropics—possibly from farm sites like rice paddies and cattle pastures.
They say research shows that the growth of CO2 emissions has flattened out in recent years, just as methane's seem to be soaring.
Rob Jackson, a co-author of the editorial and professor of Earth system science at Stanford University, U.S., said the methane findings "are worrisome but provide an immediate opportunity for mitigation that complements efforts for carbon dioxide."
He and his fellow authors helped to produce the 2016 Global Methane Budget, a comprehensive look at how methane flowed in and out of the atmosphere from 2000 to 2012 because of human activities and other factors. The budget is published by the Global Carbon Project, a research initiative of Future Earth.
Peter Wadhams, emeritus professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, said scientists are now seeing large plumes of methane escaping from the shallow seas north of Siberia. These emissions and those from the thawing tundra, are contributing to the sudden rise in methane concentrations.
"The methane being released now, at an accelerating rate, could easily negate the carbon reductions we are making.
"A Russian expedition which returned from the Arctic recently estimates there's so much methane in offshore sediments that if it all escaped it would mean an immediate temperature rise of about 0.6 C. And there's quite a big chance of a total melt.
"I've been going to the Arctic for over 40 years and this is entirely new. The melting sea ice has allowed the water temperature to rise to 7 C since about 2005, affecting the permafrost which had till then remained unchanged since the Ice Age. The methane plumes are an amazing sight, a mass of bubbles erupting from the sea surface."
And releases of methane from the sea floor are not restricted to the shallow Arctic waters: One of the places they are occurring as well is in the north Pacific.
Methane comes from a variety of sources, including wild areas like marshes and wetlands and fossil fuel exploration. About 60 percent of the gas which enters the atmosphere annually comes from human activities, notably agriculture.
#Methane emissions blow past current estimates https://t.co/KDSTSaVt8g via @EcoWatch https://t.co/Uy5wYgBZNE— Climate Nexus (@Climate Nexus)1475773026.0
Marielle Saunois, lead author of the ERL paper, from Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University, France, said the world should do more about methane emissions: "If we want to stay below two degrees temperature increase, we should not follow this track and need to make a rapid turn-around."
Saunois said that, on available data, she and her colleagues think agricultural growth is the likelier source, at least for now, of rising methane than expanded natural gas drilling.
"When it comes to methane, there has been a lot of focus on the fossil fuel industry, but we need to look just as hard if not harder at agriculture," Prof. Jackson said. "The situation certainly isn't hopeless. It's a real opportunity."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
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<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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