Quantcast

Why Methane Is CO2's Evil Stepsister (And Why We Should Care)

Climate

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.”

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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).

Methane is also released in heavy doses from factory farms in the form of cow belches and flatulence.

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:

 ——–

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Obama’s Methane Emissions Plan Puts Oil, Coal and Gas Industries on Notice

Tax Meat to Reduce Methane Emissions and Global Warming, Say Scientists

Study Shows Oil and Gas Industry Can Reduce Methane Emissions By 40 Percent

——–

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Coral restoration in Guam. U.S. Pacific Fleet / CC BY-NC 2.0

By Erica Cirino

Visit a coral reef off the coast of Miami or the Maldives and you may see fields of bleached white instead of a burst of colors.

Read More
Cracker Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana. Jacob W. Frank / NPS / Flickr

By Jason Bittel

High up in the mountains of Montana's Glacier National Park, there are two species of insect that only a fly fishermen or entomologist would probably recognize. Known as stoneflies, these aquatic bugs are similar to dragonflies and mayflies in that they spend part of their lives underwater before emerging onto the land, where they transform into winged adults less than a half inch long. However, unlike those other species, stoneflies do their thing only where cold, clean waters flow.

Read More
Sponsored
Augusta National / Getty Images

By Bob Curley

  • The new chicken sandwiches at McDonald's, Popeyes, and Chick-fil-A all contain the MSG flavor enhancement chemical.
  • Experts say MSG can enhance the so-called umami flavor of a food.
  • The ingredient is found in everything from Chinese food and pizza to prepackaged sandwiches and table sauces.

McDonald's wants to get in on the chicken sandwich war currently being waged between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A.

Read More
Protesters march during a "Friday for future" youth demonstration in a street of Davos on Jan. 24 on the sideline of the World Economic Forum annual meeting. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Youth climate activists marched through the streets of Davos, Switzerland Friday as the World Economic Forum wrapped up in a Fridays for Future demonstration underscoring their demand that the global elite act swiftly to tackle the climate emergency.

Read More
chuchart duangdaw / Moment / Getty Images

By Tim Radford

The year is less than four weeks old, but scientists already know that carbon dioxide emissions will continue to head upwards — as they have every year since measurements began leading to a continuation of the Earth's rising heat.

Read More