Methane Emissions Now 12% Higher than Beginning of 21st Century

Alex Camerino | | BrainsBrains
Methane bubbles in Ice
Methane bubbles frozen in pond ice. Photo: Unsplash

Methane emissions are now significantly higher than the early 2000s, which is alarming scientists. In 2017 40 million metric tons more methane was released into the atmosphere than the beginning of this century. These emissions are concerning because methane can trap 30 times more heat in our atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Anthropogenic Methane emissions
Fossil fuel usage, agriculture, and landfills are the three largest contributors to methane emissions in the world. Photo: IOP

The three main contributors are agriculture, landfills, and fossil fuel usage. While there are also natural emissions the vast majority of methane released into the atmosphere is anthropogenic. Knowing where the methane is coming from is crucial to curbing global emissions. Scientists are able to look at the methane isotopes which have specific markers that can be traced to their original source. Since there is a large amount of data to sluice through the most recent data available is from 2017. Scientists say that there is no evidence to believe that emissions have decreased since 2017.

Emissions have risen the most in the Middle East, South Asia, Oceania, and Africa. These largest jumps are mostly due to the increase in agriculture, specifically cattle and rice paddies. While people joke about cows farting and burping, cattle are the largest producers of methane in agriculture. They produce so much that Burger King is working to develop a diet for cows to reduce their methane emissions by 30%.

Global Methane Emissions
Global Methane Emissions from 1984-present. Photo: NOAA

What Can You Do?

How can you help to reduce global emissions? No, you do not have to start walking everywhere and go vegan, although that is an effective option. Simply eating less red meat goes a long way. Driving less and biking or walking more is also a great option. It is also important to minimize waste. Reduce the number of plastics you use, reuse what you can, and recycle anything you are able to. With a little effort we can all make our planet a better place.

Emissions by Region
Methane emissions by region. Photo: IOP

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