Methane Emissions Appear Worse Than Anyone Thought

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Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Methane, one of the primary greenhouse gases responsible for global warming, may a bigger problem than previously believed. A study published Wednesday in Nature says that methane emitted during the production and use of fossil fuels are 20 to 60 percent higher than experts had thought. The second biggest contributor to the planet’s warming climate, methane is far better at trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere than CO2, the only gas more responsible for global warming.

If you’re willing to look hard enough, you can find a silver lining here. NOAA’s Stefan Schwietzke, the lead author of the study, told AFP that the increased level of emissions from the fossil-fuel industry means improvements in the industry could have a huge impact on global warming. Certainly, it would be easier than reducing the methane that comes from cows, wetlands, agriculture, and landfills, which make up two-thirds of methane emissions. Fossil fuels make up the other third.

Meanwhile, in other depressing climate news, turns out that the dams and reservoirs necessary for hydropower, a seemingly clean source of energy, produce a hell of a lot of methane too.