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Could Reducing Methane Emissions Curb Climate Change?

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

When it comes to air quality, we often focus on carbon dioxide (CO2) and how bad it is for the environment. But methane (CH4) is just as bad for the environment and many people consider it a far worse greenhouse gas than CO2. Let’s look at the effects of methane gas and how we can combat methane emissions.

What is Methane?

Methane is a powerful colourless, odourless and highly flammable greenhouse gas. It occurs naturally as well as by specific human-related activities.

Where Does Methane Come From?

Humans contribute around 60% of methane emissions through fossil fuels, agriculture and waste, while the other 40% comes from natural sources.

We understand that the natural sources come from wetlands, termites, geological sources, wild animals and wildfires, as a result of digestion. While it’s a fairly large portion of the causes, we can’t do much in the way of tampering with the natural sources to reduce them. But we can minimise the human-related activities.

Agriculture forms the leading source of methane production globally. While all ruminant animals (hoofed herbivores that graze) can produce this gas, cows produce the most methane, releasing up to 500 litres of it into the atmosphere each day.

A growing population has meant that livestock farming has skyrocketed, which in turn creates more methane.

This wouldn’t be a problem except for one crucial question…

Is Methane a Greenhouse Gas?

Yes. In fact, it is one of the most potent greenhouse gases. This means it contributes to climate change by heating up the atmosphere.

As a greenhouse gas, it is short-lived as it only has an atmospheric lifetime of around 12 years. Carbon dioxide, which is perhaps the most well-known and most written about greenhouse gas, can stay in the atmosphere for between 300 and 1,000 years.

So, Why is Methane Bad?

Methane is much more efficient than carbon dioxide at trapping radiation and warming the planet. Per unit of mass, the impact of methane on climate change over 20 years is 86 times greater than CO2; over a 100-year period, it is 28 time