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Why Methane Is CO2's Evil Stepsister (And Why We Should Care)
Carbon dioxide is the greenhouse gas that gets tossed around in most climate change conversations.
But methane (CH4) is making its way into the mainstream spotlight.
Here are some things that are happening:
Climate change is warming up areas that were typically cold enough for permafrost. Permafrost—soil that’s frozen year round and comprises 24 percent of Northern Hemisphere land (8.8 millions square miles)—is no longer “perma.”
Some permafrost that’s been frozen for tens, even hundreds of thousands of years is thawing (i.e., no longer so frosty).
277 billion tonnes of carbon are contained in the peatlands in the permafrost zone of the Northern Hemisphere. That’s equivalent to 1,017 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). Guess where that’s gonna end up when thawing occurs?
But, thawing and decomposing permafrost will lead to relatively more methane than carbon dioxide emissions, which could lead to more serious climate impacts than previously thought, a study said.
To top it off, a newly discovered microbe happens to thrive in thawing permafrost, blooming like algal blooms. Methane is a byproduct of its metabolism. Oops! This new microbe stuff is adding fuel to the fire and, one could say, the microbe’s booming and blooming lifestyle is indirectly caused by humans (hey—we’re the ones who started throwing all those extra greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which has thrown off climate cycles according to 97 percent of climate scientists).
And it’s emitted in the production and transport of coal, natural gas and oil, not to mention the anaerobic decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills. Garbage in, garbage out.
So what’s all the “evil stepsister” name-calling of poor old methane?
Why is methane such a big deal for climate change?
Globally, over 60 percent of total methane emissions come from human activities. Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the U.S. from human activities. We’re the enabler here.
Methane—a more powerful greenhouse gas—is 33 times more effective in heating the Earth than carbon dioxide. Need I say more?
Listen to the latest Green Divas myEARTH360 Report for more on methane and other environmental news.
Bonus video about permafrost:
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Trump Makes Strange Claim About Water Efficient Toilets: 'People Are Flushing Toilets 10 Times, 15 Times'
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By Carey Gillam
Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant will have to testify in person at a St. Louis-area trial set for January in litigation brought by a cancer-stricken woman who claims her disease was caused by exposure to the company's Roundup herbicide and that Monsanto covered up the risks instead of warning consumers.
A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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