In 2021, the concentration of methane (CH4) in the atmosphere exceeded 1,900 ppb for the first time in human history, recorded by the Global Monitoring Laboratory, Earth System Research Laboratories, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
This level of 1,900 ppb is three times the pre-industrial level of 700 ppb. Moreover, it has suddenly mysteriously accelerated in the last 13 years alone. In turn, this exceptional acceleration could significantly accelerate global warming. More worryingly, the acceleration seems to regenerate on its own without human influence.
“Methane levels are rising dangerously fast,” according to Euan Nisbet, Earth scientist at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Euan Nisbet, one of the world’s leading experts on methane, was interviewed at length on Alex Smith’s Radio Ecoshock on February 23, 2022, www.ecoshock.org, which is one of the best outlets for ecological information and the state of the planet. Nisbet’s studies lead to the conclusion that the increase in methane emissions is likely coming from tropical countries more than anywhere else on the planet: “There is strong evidence to suggest that increases in tropical biological sources such as ruminants and wetlands are the main drivers of recent methane growth. The growth of tropical methane emissions is consistent with an expansion of regions experiencing a tropical climate, an intensification of land use and a rapid increase in population coupled with explosive urban growth”.
The result is that CH4 has shown a better performance since pre-industrial than CO2, which is up about 50% or one-sixth the triple increase of methane. Molecule-by-molecule methane is most effective in the short term (10 years) at trapping global heat. This sudden acceleration is not good news. It’s a horror story about climate change starting to come true.
Identifying sources of methane is crucial for potential mitigation efforts. But unfortunately, the attenuation seems uncertain or questionable, as we will explain later. Meanwhile, 600 million tonnes of methane are released into the atmosphere every year, two-fifths of which come from natural biogenic sources like decaying vegetation in swamps, with the rest or three-fifths related to human activity. . However, this ratio evolves in favor of the biogenic.
Human sources include: first, agriculture, which is the most important source with 150 million tons. Two, urban landfills and a 70 million ton sewage system. Third, the fossil fuel industry at 100 million tons via leaky wells and pipelines and coal venting shafts in mines.
Unfortunately, the overriding problem and the big new concern is the surprising fact that biogenic sources are now beginning to predominate, meaning nature is overtaking human influence. This has been clearly true since 2007 and comes from the tropics, sub-tropics and high northern latitudes. This is a classic example of positive feedback with “warming fueling more warming”.
This means that methane emissions are now accelerating “hands free” without human impact. This is exactly what scientists have feared for decades. Note that isotopic signatures can determine sources of methane, i.e. methane from nature (carbon 12) has a different signature than methane from human sources (carbon 13).
Xin Lan, an atmospheric scientist at NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado, says studies show the rapid increase since 2007 is 85% due to microbes or natural sources. This, therefore, is evidence of nature’s positive feedback loop at work, with nature now producing levels of acceleration of its own accord, endless acceleration fueled by global warming that feeds into it. -same ! This is not comforting knowledge for those worried about abrupt climate change with resulting excessive global heat.
However, climatologist Euan Nisbet says research is still ongoing as to the main source. So the source of the CH4 acceleration is still in the air, however, he asserts: “Is warming fueling warming? This is an incredibly important question. For the moment, no answer, but it looks a lot like it.
Also, of particular note and concern for future renegade methane emissions, NASA’s Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment a few years ago identified methane hotspots via airborne sensors over nearly 12,000 square miles of arctic landscape: “We detected 2 million of these hotspots over the land we covered…mostly concentrated in about 44 meters of standing water masses…we saw a thaw steepness of the permafrost just below the hotspots”.
Two million Arctic hotspots where methane emissions have been detected should give pause to the countries mentioned below who have refused the Global Methane Pledge.
“Methane reaching 1,900 ppb is a fire alarm. We cannot stop emissions from natural wetlands. climate change in November 2021 – over 100 nations have signed the Global Methane Pledge, pledging to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030.”
It should be noted, and broadcast worldwide on a weekly basis, that the biggest emitters, including China, India, Russia, Qatar and Australia have refused to “commit”. Yes, they refuse to reduce methane emissions. The named countries want nothing to do with any attempt to diminish the preferred supply point of global warming.
Thus and therefore, the question arises whether the Global Methane Pledge will be yet another failure in the world’s lame attempts to mitigate climate change/global warming. It sure looks like that. Moreover, this repeated failure of nations to undertake mitigation efforts is beyond frustrating. It endangers the balance of the planet to sustain life.
This absurd and taxing routine of nations/states committing to mitigation plans and not following through on them, e.g. Paris’15, or refusing to commit to key mitigation efforts alongside others nations/states, for example the Global Methane Pledge, are beginning to sound like ‘the kiss of death on autopilot’.
Clearly, the horrifying message that global warming is almost out of control, RGW (uncontrollable global warming) is not reaching world leaders who can tell the difference. This frustrating fact has led some climatologists to seriously consider “throwing in the towel”, stopping research, stopping writing articles, going on strike.
The nonchalant attitude of world leaders reflects a world that has become anti-intellectual, anti-science just when it was needed most. If it were otherwise, with scientists held in high regard, much of the planet’s next dark era could be wiped out.
This article was originally published under the title: “Methane Acceleration Sets Record”.
Courtesy of: Counterpunch.org