Reducing methane emissions vital for climate action, but not ‘get out of jail free card’

Although the world needs a six per cent cut in fossil fuels to avoid the worst of global warming, coal mines, like those in in Samacá, Colombia, are expected instead to increase production by two per cent.

World Bank/Scott WallaceAlthough the world needs a six per cent cut in fossil fuels to avoid the worst of global warming, coal mines, like those in in Samacá, Colombia, are expected instead to increase production by two per cent.    31 October 2021Climate and Environment

A new reporting hub to reduce methane emissions – a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for at least a quarter of global warming – was launched on Sunday by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), as the UN Climate Conference (COP26) kicked off in Glasgow.

Supported by the European Union (EU), the International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO), the initiative aims to improve the reporting accuracy and public transparency of anthropogenic, or human-caused, methane emissions.

Initially, the Observatory will focus on methane emissions from the fossil fuel sector, before expanding to other major producing sectors, like agriculture and waste.

“As highlighted by IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], if the world is serious about avoiding the worst effects of climate change, we need to cut methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry”, said UNEP chief Inger Andersen.

Monstrous methane

Noting that methane released directly into the atmosphere is more than 80 times as potent as carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 20-year period, the report upholds the need for the world to cut by 50 per cent, greenhouse gas emissions to reach the goal set by the Paris Agreement on climate change, of limiting global temperature rise, as close as possible to 1.5°C.

However, as the atmospheric lifespan of methane is a relatively short 10 to 12 years, emission-cutting actions can reduce the rate of warming, as it also delivers air quality benefits.

According to the recently published UNEP-CCAC Global Methane Assessment, low or zero-net methane reductions could shave 0.28°C from the planet’s forecasted rise in average temperature by 2050, almost halving anthropogenic methane emissions.

The Observatory notes that if the world is to achieve the 1.5°C temperature target, it must make deep methane emission reductions.

To this end, it outlines how to prioritize actions and monitor commitments made by States in the Global Methane Pledge, a 30-country-strong effort to slash these emissions by 30 per cent, by 2030.

‘Hand-in-hand’ reductions

On the current trajectory, by 2030 greenhouse gas emissions from plastic could reach 1.34 billion tons per year, equivalent to the emissions produced by 300 new 500MW coal-fired power plants.Climate Visuals Countdown/Abir A

“But this is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card: methane reductions must go hand in hand with actions to decarbonize the energy system to limit warming to 1.5°C”, said Ms. Andersen.

As the fossil fuel industry is responsible for one-third of anthropogenic emissions, it is the sector with the highest potential for reductions.

Wasted methane, the main component in natural gas, is a valuable source of energy that could be used to fuel power plants or homes.

Emission data sharing

Beginning with the fossil fuel sector, the Observatory will produce a global public dataset of verified methane emissions.

This will be done by integrating information principally from the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0 (OGMP 2.0), scientific studies, remote sensing data, and national inventories.

IMEO will then share this data with companies and Governments globally to utilize for their own strategic mitigation actions.

Trusted data

Methane reductions must go hand in hand with actions to decarbonize the energy system — UNEP chief

Data collected through OGMP 2.0 – launched last November in the framework of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, in which UN agencies are partners – are of critical importance, said UNEP.

OGMP 2.0 is the only comprehensive, measurement-based reporting framework for the oil and gas sector, and its 74-member companies represent many of the world’s largest operators, with assets that account for over 30 per cent of all oil and gas production.

In its first published report, IMEO spells out the need for an independent and trusted entity to integrate multiple sources of data.

The report also includes an analysis submitted by OGMP 2.0 companies, where most outlined ambitious 2025 reduction targets.

Out of the 55 companies that set goals, 30 meet or exceeded the recommended targets of 45 per cent reduction or near-zero methane intensity, and 51 have submitted plan.

To maintain its independence and credibility, IMEO will receive no industry financing, but instead be entirely funded by Governments and philanthropies, with core resources provided by the European Commission as a founding member.A thermal power plant in Port Louis, Mauritius is contributing to greenhouse gas emissions on the Indian Ocean island.UNDP Mauritius/Stéphane BelleroA thermal power plant in Port Louis, Mauritius is contributing to greenhouse gas emissions on the Indian Ocean island.


Dropping Oxygen Will Eventually Suffocate Most Life on Earth

(Aaron Foster/The Image Bank/Getty Images)ENVIRONMENT

Enjoy It While You Can:


For now, life is flourishing on our oxygen-rich planet, but Earth wasn’t always that way – and scientists have predicted that, in the future, the atmosphere will revert back to one that’s rich in methane and low in oxygen.

This probably won’t happen for another billion years or so. But when the change comes, it’s going to happen fairly rapidly, the study from earlier this year suggests.

This shift will take the planet back to something like the state it was in before what’s known as the Great Oxidation Event (GOE) around 2.4 billion years ago.

What’s more, the researchers behind the new study say that atmospheric oxygen is unlikely to be a permanent feature of habitable worlds in general, which has implications for our efforts to detect signs of life further out in the Universe.

“The model projects that a deoxygenation of the atmosphere, with atmospheric O2 dropping sharply to levels reminiscent of the Archaean Earth, will most probably be triggered before the inception of moist greenhouse conditions in Earth’s climate system and before the extensive loss of surface water from the atmosphere,” wrote the researchers in their published paper.

At that point it’ll be the end of the road for human beings and most other life forms that rely on oxygen to get through the day, so let’s hope we figure out how to get off the planet at some point within the next billion years.

To reach their conclusions, the researchers ran detailed models of Earth’s biosphere, factoring in changes in the brightness of the Sun and the corresponding drop in carbon dioxide levels, as the gas gets broken down by increasing levels of heat. Less carbon dioxide means fewer photosynthesizing organisms such as plants, which would result in less oxygen.

Scientists have previously predicted that increased radiation from the Sun would wipe ocean waters off the face of our planet within about 2 billion years, but the new model – based on an average of just under 400,000 simulations – says the reduction in oxygen is going to kill off life first.

“The drop in oxygen is very, very extreme,” Earth scientist Chris Reinhard, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, told New Scientist earlier this year. “We’re talking around a million times less oxygen than there is today.”

What makes the study particularly relevant to the present day is our search for habitable planets outside of the Solar System.

Increasingly powerful telescopes are coming online, and scientists want to be able to know what they should be looking for in the reams of data these instruments are collecting.

It’s possible that we need to be hunting for other biosignatures besides oxygen to have the best chance of spotting life, the researchers say. Their study is part of the NASA NExSS (Nexus for Exoplanet System Science) project, which is investigating the habitability of planets other than our own.

According to the calculations run by Reinhard and environmental scientist Kazumi Ozaki, from Toho University in Japan, the oxygen-rich habitable history of Earth could end up lasting for just 20-30 percent of the planet’s lifespan as a whole – and microbial life will carry on existing long after we are gone.

“The atmosphere after the great deoxygenation is characterized by an elevated methane, low-levels of CO2, and no ozone layer,” said Ozaki. “The Earth system will probably be a world of anaerobic life forms.”

The research has been published in Nature Geoscience.

A version of this article was first published in March 2021.

Research reveals potential of an overlooked climate change solution

by Stanford University

Stanford-led research reveals potential of an overlooked climate change solution
Graph shows globally averaged, monthly mean atmospheric methane abundance determined from marine surface sites since 1983. Credit: NOAA

Earlier this month, President Biden urged other countries to join the U.S. and European Union in a commitment to slashing methane emissions. Two new Stanford-led studies could help pave the way by laying out a blueprint for coordinating research on methane removal technologies, and modeling how the approach could have an outsized effect on reducing future peak temperatures.

The analyses, published Sept. 27 in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, reveal that removing about three years-worth of human-caused emissions of the potent greenhouse gas would reduce global surface temperatures by approximately 0.21 degrees Celsius while reducing ozone levels enough to prevent roughly 50,000 premature deaths annually. The findings open the door to direct comparisons with carbon dioxide removal—an approach that has received significantly more research and investment—and could help shape national and international climate policy in the future.

“The time is ripe to invest in methane removal technologies,” said Rob Jackson, lead author on the new research agenda paper and senior author on the modeling study. Jackson is the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Provostial Professor of Energy and Environment in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

The case for methane removal

The relative concentration of methane has grown more than twice as fast as that of carbon dioxide since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Removing methane from the atmosphere could reduce temperatures even faster than carbon dioxide removal alone because methane is 81 times more potent in terms of warming the climate over the first 20 years after its release, and about 27 times more potent over a century. Methane removal also improves air quality by decreasing the concentration of tropospheric ozone, exposure to which causes an estimated one million premature deaths annually worldwide due to respiratory illnesses.

Unlike carbon dioxide, the bulk of methane emissions are human-driven. Primary culprits include agricultural sources such as livestock, which emit methane in their breath and manure, and rice fields, which emit methane when flooded. Waste disposal and fossil fuel extraction also contribute substantial emissions. Natural sources of methane, including soil microbes in wetlands, account for the remaining 40 percent of global methane emissions. They further complicate the picture because some of them, such as thawing permafrost, are projected to increase as the planet warms.×280&!1&btvi=1&fsb=1&xpc=eIQ9B0UBLu&p=https%3A//

While development of methane removal technologies will not be easy, the potential financial rewards are big. If market prices for carbon offsets rise to $100 or more per ton this century, as predicted by most relevant assessment models, each ton of methane removed from the atmosphere could then be worth more than $2,700.

Envisioning methane removal’s impacts

The modeling study uses a new model developed by the United Kingdom’s national weather service (known as the UK Met Office) to examine methane removal’s potential impacts while accounting for its shorter lifetime than carbon dioxide—a key factor because some of the methane removed would have disappeared anyway. The researchers created a set of scenarios by varying either the amount removed or the timing of removal to generalize their results over a wide range of realistic future emissions pathways.

Under a high emissions scenario, the analysis showed that a 40 percent reduction in global methane emissions by 2050 would lead to a temperature reduction of approximately 0.4 degrees Celsius by 2050. Under a low emissions scenario where temperature peaks during the 21st century, methane removal of the same magnitude could reduce the peak temperature by up to 1 degree Celsius.

“This new model allows us to better understand how methane removal alters warming on the global scale and air quality on the human scale,” said modeling study lead author and research agenda coauthor Sam Abernethy, a Ph.D. student in applied physics who works in Jackson’s lab.

From research to development

The path to achieving these climate and air quality improvements remains unclear. To bring it into focus, the research agenda paper compares and contrasts aspects of carbon dioxide and methane removal, describes a range of technologies for methane removal and outlines a framework for coordinating and accelerating its scale-up. The framework would help facilitate more accurate analysis of methane removal factors ranging from location-specific simulations to potential interactions with other climate change mitigation approaches.

Methane is challenging to capture from air because its concentration is so low, but burgeoning technologies—such as a class of crystalline materials called zeolites capable of soaking up the gas—hold the promise of a solution, according to the researchers. They argue for increased research into these technologies’ cost, efficiency, scaling and energy requirements, potential social barriers to deployment, co-benefits and possible negative by-products.

“Carbon dioxide removal has received billions of dollars of investments, with dozens of companies formed,” said Jackson. “We need similar commitments for methane removal.”

Countries Promised To Cut Greenhouse Emissions, The UN Says They Are Failing

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September 17, 20214:10 PM ET


Meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement will require completely eliminating carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning power plants like this one in Adamsville, AlabamaANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

The United Nations is warning that most countries have failed to uphold promises to make deep cuts to greenhouse gas pollution, in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate, countries are required to submit details of their plans to cut greenhouse emissions, called “Nationally Determined Contributions,” or NDCs, to the UN, which then calculates their total impact. The goal is to keep average global temperatures from rising beyond 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), and ideally, no more than 2.7 degrees, compared to pre-industrial levels.

“We need about a 45 to 50 percent decrease by 2030 to stay in line with what the science shows is necessary,” says Rachel Cleetus, policy director for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Yet according to a new report issued by the UN on Friday, the NDCs submitted so far actually will allow global emissions to keep rising, increasing by 16 percent by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, meeting the more ambitious target of a 2.7 degree Fahrenheit temperature rise would require eliminating fossil fuels almost entirely by 2050.Article continues after sponsor message

“It’s a sobering, sobering summary,” Cleetus says. “We are so far off track from where we need to be.”

The U.S. has updated its climate plan to the UN, promising to cut greenhouse emissions in half by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

Cleetus says the American pledge is a “significant contribution, but the reality is, we have to deliver, to help ensure that those emissions reductions actually happen.” Some of the policies and programs that the Biden Administration is counting on to reach that goal, such as a clean electricity standard, have not yet made it through Congress.

The UN report does include one small bit of hopeful news for advocates of climate action. More recent updates to countries’ NDCs tend to be more ambitious, perhaps signaling a growing willingness to abandon fossil fuels.

The UN is still waiting for updated plans from many countries. “There are some real laggard nations that we hope to hear from,” Cleetus says. They include China, which is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, as well as Japan, Australia, South Korea, and Brazil.

Wisconsin Launches Probe Into Methane Plume Spotted From Space

Naureen S. Malik and Aaron ClarkFri, September 17, 2021, 3:05 PM·1 min read

(Bloomberg) — Wisconsin is investigating a methane plume that was spotted by a satellite last week.

The state launched a probe after being contacted by Bloomberg News about a plume of methane detected in southwest Wisconsin by Kayrros SAS, which relied on a Sept. 10 satellite observation from the European Space Agency. The geoanalytics company estimated an emissions rate of 30 tons of methane an hour was needed to generate the release.

“The DNR was made aware of a potential methane plume in Southwest Wisconsin, and commenced investigations immediately,” spokeswoman Molly Meister said in an email Friday. “No reports of planned or unplanned work or releases by regulated sources in the area of the plume have been identified by DNR thus far.”

Halting intentional releases and accidental leaks of methane, the primary component of natural gas, could do more to slow climate change than almost any other single measure. The U.S. And the European Union this week unveiled a new initiative to pare global methane emissions by 30% before the end of the decade. Methane has more than 80 times the warming impact of carbon dioxide over the short term.

Like many other states, Wisconsin has no methane reporting requirements, and often such releases are never reported or are under-reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This year, Energy Transfer LP and Gazprom PJSC confirmed emissions in the U.S. and Russia after Bloomberg News reported plumes spotted from satellites.

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Fires in the Arctic, record sea levels: NOAA report details effects of climate change in 2020

PUBLISHED THU, AUG 26 20212:38 PM EDTUPDATED THU, AUG 26 20219:53 PM EDTEmma Newburger@EMMA_NEWBURGERSHAREShare Article via FacebookShare Article via TwitterShare Article via LinkedInShare Article via EmailKEY POINTS

  • A year after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses and grounded flights across the world, scientists say the resulting temporary drop in carbon emissions has had no lasting impact on climate change.
  • In fact, many metrics of the planet’s health declined significantly last year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s new “State of the Climate in 2020” report.
  • 2020 saw the highest concentration of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere ever recorded, along with unprecedented global sea levels and average global temperatures.
The sun sets behind smoke from a distant wildfire as drought conditions worsen on July 12, 2021 near Glennville, California.

The sun sets behind smoke from a distant wildfire as drought conditions worsen on July 12, 2021 near Glennville, California.David McNew | Getty Images

A year after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses, grounded flights and reduced vehicle traffic across the world, scientists say the resulting temporary drop in carbon emissions has had no lasting impact on climate change.

In fact, many metrics of the planet’s health declined significantly last year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s new “State of the Climate in 2020” report.

The NOAA’s report, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, confirms that despite a 6% to 7% drop in emissions from reduced activity amid the pandemic, the concentration of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere still hit its highest level ever recorded last year.

Scientists also confirmed other records in 2020, which include:

  • The highest annual increase in concentrations of methane, a potent climate-changing gas
  • Average global surface temperatures were among the hottest on record
  • Sea levels reached the highest on record
  • Oceans absorbed a record level of carbon dioxide
  • 2020 was the hottest year on record that did not feature an El Niño.

The findings come shortly after a stark analysis from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned that limiting global warming to close to 1.5 degrees Celsius or even 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will be impossible in the next two decades without immediate widespread reductions in greenhouse gas pollution.

The annual global average carbon dioxide concentration at Earth’s surface was 412.5 parts per million, roughly 2.5 ppm more than in 2019, the highest in at least the last 800,000 years, the NOAA report said.

Last year also saw a record spike in emissions of methane, which remains in the atmosphere for a shorter amount of time than carbon dioxide but delivers roughly 84 times as much warming in that period.

Hotter-than-average temperatures were widespread across the world last year. In Europe, 2020 was the hottest year on record, with all five of the warmest years occurring since 2014, the report said.

The average surface air temperature over land in the Arctic last year was the highest ever recorded in the last 121 years. The Arctic also experienced its highest wildfire year in 2020.

In central Siberia, where the majority of wildfires burned, record high spring temperatures triggered rapid snowmelt that contributed to the fourth-smallest snow cover extent in May for the continent and record smallest in June, according to the report.

The U.S. also saw a record number of costly disasters in 2020 as climate change triggers more frequent and intense hurricanes, wildfires and floods.

The country had a total of 22 climate disasters that each cost more than $1 billion, shattering a previous annual record of 16 disasters the country saw in both 2011 and 2017, the report said. Wildfires in the Western U.S. also burned nearly 10.3 million acres from California to Colorado, the most the country has seen in over two decades.

Looking ahead, 2021 has already surpassed some of last year’s records.

July marked the hottest month ever recorded. And a heatwave that scientists declared was made “virtually impossible” without climate change hit the Pacific Northwest and Canada, resulting in hundreds of heat-related deaths.WATCH NOWVIDEO02:50Climate change is a key driver to biodiversity loss, expert says

Methane is the greenhouse gas we can no longer afford to ignore

The next decade is crucial to tackle both big polluting gases.


Marsh with fossil fuel facility and powerlines in distance

New methane-tracking methods revealed that natural atmospheric levels were far lower than previously reported, and that fossil fuel-produced levels were much higher. Rudy and Peter Skitterians from PixabaySHARE 

You may have heard the story of the tortoise and the hare, and how the lesson is that slow and steady wins the race. But what happens when the race changes from a marathon to a sprint?The Dixie fire is on track to be California’s biggest everBest eReaders for every type of book loverttps://

For years, climate scientists have seen carbon dioxide as our tortoise—the slow, steady enemy we need to wrestle back to prevent climate change. And it’s true, CO2 has a half life of somewhere between 19 to 49 years, meaning it stays in the Earth’s atmosphere anywhere from 300 to 1,000 years. That’s why over the past century or so, it’s been the key culprit in the greenhouse gas effect

Now comes the hare in this climate fable. Methane, the second-most emitted greenhouse gas on the planet, is at least 25 times more effective than carbon dioxide at keeping heat locked in the atmosphere. But it also has a much shorter half-life, lingering in the air for less than a decade. So, it’s been somewhat overlooked as a catalyst for a warming world.

The IPCC report last week finally corrected the record by adding methane emissions to the list of climate change priorities to tackle in the next decade. 

[Related: You can’t escape climate change by moving to New Zealand]

“The big take-home nugget for me is they said if you look at all the warming activity done by humans over the last century … carbon dioxide has contributed 0.75 degrees Celsius, while methane has contributed to 0.5 degrees Celsius,” says Bob Howarth, a professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell University.

This new focus on methane calls for even more serious changes to the way the world is powered, fed, and cleaned up.

Where does methane come from?

The first thing people might think of when it comes to methane pollution are cows—and for good reason. Agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to CH4 emissions, largely because of how livestock digest their food and have their waste disposed. But methane can come from pretty much anywhere food or plants decompose without oxygen, like marshes, landfills, and fossil fuels.

In the past, we’ve underestimated how much methane is emitted by human practices. According to a 2020 study by University of Rochester scientists, levels of “naturally released” methane reported in the atmosphere were 10 times too high. On the flip side, fossil fuel-based methane is actually about 25 to 40 percent higher than previously predicted. The researchers discovered this after doing a deep dive into different carbon-14 isotopes, many of which traced back to natural gas. 

[Related: New satellites can pinpoint methane leaks to help us beat climate change]

Strangely enough, natural gas has slid by posing as a “bridge fuel”—the ticket to help low- and middle-income countries get from a fossil fuel-run energy system to a more renewable one. But the switch hasn’t even happened in wealthier nations: Nearly 40 percent of the US’s electricity comes from natural gas, and only 20 percent from renewables like solar, wind, and hydroelectric.

“The question is: Is this a bridge fuel, or is it going to be around for a very long time?” environmental economist Sheila Olmstead told National Geographic last year. “The market is telling us it’s probably going to be around for a long time.”

How do we scrub methane from our lives?

The IPCC report makes it clear that even if it only lurks in the atmosphere for a little while, methane has influenced the deadly impacts we’ve seen from climate change. To keep the world from going off the cliff, methane emissions must be capped, just like carbon dioxide is.

“I think what happens over the next decade is critical,” says Howarth. “We’re already seeing bigger fires, bigger droughts, losses in potential agricultural production, and more floods.”

Now that the IPCC has laid out the projections for the race, managing the contenders will be the most important task. US policy seems to be headed in the right direction, as Obama-era methane rules for the oil and gas industries are back on the table. Meat and dairy producers are experimenting with new techniques to slim down their CH4 output, and international groups are working to combat food waste. We have our work cut out for us; in this case, slow and steady won’t get it done.

Correction: This post originally stated methane is at least 25 percent more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. Methane is actually 25 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat.

Reduce methane or face climate catastrophe, scientists warn

Cows stand in a field near the village of Eghezee, Belgium May 20, 2021.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Exclusive: IPCC says gas, produced by farming, shale gas and oil extraction, playing ever-greater role in overheating planetFiona Harvey Environment correspondentFri 6 Aug 2021 02.00 EDT

Cutting carbon dioxide is not enough to solve the climate crisis – the world must act swiftly on another powerful greenhouse gas, methane, to halt the rise in global temperatures, experts have warned.

Leading climate scientists will give their starkest warning yet – that we are rushing to the brink of climate catastrophe – in a landmark report on Monday. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will publish its sixth assessment report, a comprehensive review of the world’s knowledge of the climate crisis and how human actions are altering the planet. It will show in detail how close the world is to irreversible change.

One of the key action points for policymakers is likely to be a warning that methane is playing an ever greater role in overheating the planet. The carbon-rich gas, produced from animal farming, shale gas wells and poorly managed conventional oil and gas extraction, heats the world far more effectively than carbon dioxide – it has a “warming potential” more than 80 times that of CO2 – but has a shorter life in the atmosphere, persisting for about a decade before it degrades into CO2.Emissions from cows on New Zealand dairy farms reach record levels

Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development and a lead reviewer for the IPCC, said methane reductions were probably the only way of staving off temperature rises of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, beyond which extreme weather will increase and “tipping points” could be reached. “Cutting methane is the biggest opportunity to slow warming between now and 2040,” he said. “We need to face this emergency.”

Zaelke said policymakers must heed the IPCC findings on methane before the UN climate talks, Cop26, in Glasgow in November. “We need to see at Cop26 a recognition of this problem, that we need to do something on this.”

Cutting methane could balance the impact of phasing out coal, a key goal at Cop26 because it is the dirtiest fossil fuel and has caused sharp rises in emissions in recent years. However, coal use has a perverse climate effect: the particles of sulphur it produces shield the Earth from some warming by deflecting some sunlight.

That means the immediate effect of cutting coal use could be to increase warming, although protecting the Earth in the medium and long term. Zaelke said cutting methane could offset that. “Defossilisation will not lead to cooling until about 2050. Sulphur falling out of the atmosphere will unmask warming that is already in the system,” he said.

“Climate change is like a marathon – we need to stay in the race. Cutting carbon dioxide will not lead to cooling in the next 10 years, and beyond that our ability to tackle climate change will be so severely compromised that we will not be able to run on. Cutting methane gives us time.”Britain could be taking the lead in tackling the climate crisis. Where’s the ambition? | Keir Starmer

Levels of methane have risen sharply in recent years, caused by shale gas, poorly managed conventional gas, oil drilling and meat production. Last year, methane emissions rose by a record amount, according to the UN environment programme.

Satellite data shows that some of the key sources of methane are poorly managed Russian oil and gas wells. Gas can be extracted from conventional drilling using modern techniques that all but eliminate “fugitive” or accidental methane emissions. But while countries such as Qatar take care over methane, Russia, which is a party to the 2015 Paris climate agreement but has made little effort to cut its emissions, has some of the leakiest infrastructure.

“Today more than 40% of EU gas is methane heavy gas from Russia, which is worse than coal for the climate,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate adviser now with the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington. “The EU should begin to measure and then regulate methane emissions from all its natural gas imports to begin a cleanup of global natural gas.”

Reducing methane emissions can save money. The UN’s assessment found that about half of the reductions in methane needed could be achieved with a quick payback.

Zaelke urged governments to consider crafting a new deal, alongside the Paris agreement, that would cover methane and require countries to sharply reduce their gas. “I predict we will have to have a global methane agreement,” he said.

Methane is also produced by melting permafrost, and there have been indications that the Siberian heatwave could increase emissions of the gas. However, large-scale emissions from permafrost melting are thought to be still some way off, while emissions of methane from agriculture and industry can be tackled today.

2020 heat wave revealed new source of Arctic methane emissions: study

BY JOSEPH CHOI – 08/03/21 12:03 PM EDT

2020 heat wave revealed new source of Arctic methane emissions: study

© Mario Tama/Getty Images

A heat wave in 2020 revealed a new source of methane emissions from the Arctic that could be “much more dangerous” than previously believed, according to a new German study.  

The study, conducted by three geologists, found that a heat wave observed in 2020 unveiled a source of methane emissions “potentially in much higher amounts” from rock formations thawing in the Arctic permafrost. 

According to The Washington Post, scientists have long been concerned about “the methane bomb,” a potentially disastrous amount of methane released from thawing wetlands in Siberia’s permafrost. The methane released from the wetlands is “microbial” and stems from the decay of soil and organic matter.

The methane emissions from the rock formations, however, come from thawing limestone that releases gases from below the permafrost that are “much more dangerous” than what was previously believed.

Permafrost typically traps methane, but as global temperatures rise, the permafrost melts and more of these trapped gases are released into the atmosphere.

Nikolaus Froitzheim, one of the scientists who conducted the study and a professor at the Institute of Geosciences at Germany’s University of Bonn, explained that he and two colleagues observed two “conspicuous elongated areas” of limestone in the Taymyr Peninsula around northern Siberia.

“We would have expected elevated methane in areas with wetlands,” Froitzheim said. “But these were not over wetlands but on limestone outcrops. There is very little soil in these. It was really a surprising signal from hard rock, not wetlands.”

Currently, the largest sources of methane that aren’t trapped in permafrost come from agriculture and leaks from hydraulic fracturing, according to the paper. But the revelation of a new source of methane is troubling —Froitzheim pointed out that it is unknown how much methane is to be expected from the limestone formations.

“The question is: how much will come, and we don’t really know,” Froitzheim said.