The Coming Methane Crisis – Part I :: Or will it be an Apocalypse?


The Coming Methane Crisis? – Part I

Or will it be an Apocalypse?

Methane (CH₄) Molecule

Did I say Apocalypse? Well, to many it may sound over the top but I assure you it’ll be merely one of a number of global catastrophes our human race will be facing in the years to come; but we’ll save those other calamities for (a) separate posting(s).

Nonetheless there are those who’ll make the case against the grave seriousness of methane’s rise in our atmosphere despite the universally agreed upon notion that Methane (CH₄) is more potent than Carbon Dioxide (CO2). As with so many other politicized items in this insane world we’ve the many corporate consultants and lobbyists dead set against the regulations that could rein in the abuses cast upon mother Earth and in turn help slow down the destruction of our habitable planet. Of course with the current Whitehouse administration and Congress these corporations need not work very hard towards their aims. Those ‘in charge’ are seemingly determined on creating hell on earth, all in the name of greed and whatever other evil designs might be swirling through their heads. It’s these very same people who would have you believe that it’s the politicization of global warming and climate change which we’ve to be on the lookout for.

Alongside the naysayers and deniers are the loons and crackpots. Nevertheless, these people are just as quick to label the rest of us as kooks. So, who does one side with? In this world you either believe scientific studies or you don’t. You either believe the earth is flat, that we never landed on the moon and embrace loony science, or you not only listen to what the real scientists have to say but listen as well to your heart and your own first hand experiences. Doesn’t take a genius to see the drastic changes our environment’s gone through.

Greenhouse Gases

By definition a greenhouse gas is:

Any of the atmospheric gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect by absorbing infrared radiation produced by solar warming of the Earth’s surface. They include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (NO2), and water vapor. Although greenhouse gases occur naturally in the atmosphere, the elevated levels especially of carbon dioxide and methane that have been observed in recent decades are directly related, at least in part, to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and the deforestation of tropical forests.

It was early in the last century that researchers came to understand the significance of greenhouse gases and their effects upon the environment; and it was during the latter part of the century that their beneficial and detrimental effects were beginning to be acknowledged.

  • Beneficial in the sense that without them the temperatures on the earth would be much colder; so cold in fact that the earth would be inhabitable for life.
  • Detrimental in the way that too much can affect the natural, delicate balance found on our planet resulting in the trapping of more heat and the subsequent global warming.

So what’s the concern over Methane?

Most folks I know are familiar with the concern of rising levels of CO2 (carbon dioxide) and its effects on global warming and climate change. Yet recent studies going back towards the end of this century’s first decade show that methane (the second most damaging greenhouse gas) is a greater threat than once thought; although the extent of which might depend upon who you ask. For the most part there are plenty of news sources, official scientific organizations and governmental agencies sounding the alarm regarding the future concerns over methane.

The following video mind you was published in 2012. Climate-related developments since then have continued and in some scenarios have advanced at an extraordinary rate. More to come regarding that.

Sources of Methane

  • Livestock
    Farm animals such as pigs, sheep and cattle especially are responsible for extraordinary amounts of methane release through their belching, flatulence and excrement.
  • Permafrost thawing
    The world’s permafrost which is estimated to underlie 20% of the planet’s surface holds a supposed 950 billion tons of carbon, from which tens of billions of tons of methane could enter the atmosphere.
    Where are these sites of interest?:

    • Thawing permafrost beneath Arctic Lakes in Alaska
    • Siberia and the Far East of Russia’s melting permafrost
    • Canada, China amidst other locations
  • Antarctic trapped gas and retreating ice sheets
  • Wetlands, rivers, streams and warming oceans

Methane vs. CO2

“Methane (CH4): Methane is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil. … These gases are typically emitted in smaller quantities, but because they are potent greenhouse gases, they are sometimes referred to as High Global Warming Potential gases (“High GWP gases”)” ~ EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)

Methane is:

Borrowed from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) page:
Methane: The other important greenhouse gas

What is methane?
Methane is the primary component of natural gas, a common fuel source.

Why are we concerned about it?
If methane is allowed to leak into the air before being used—from a leaky pipe, for instance—it absorbs the sun’s heat, warming the atmosphere. For this reason, it’s considered a greenhouse gas, like carbon dioxide.

Is it as important to address as carbon emissions?
While methane doesn’t linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat. In the first two decades after its release, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Both types of emissions must be addressed if we want to effectively reduce the impact of climate change.

Regardless, the purpose of this write-up was to introduce one to this greenhouse gas. In our next entry we’ll be highlighting the increasing prevalence of methane as it’s released into our skies. We’ll be examining political motivations and such in other upcoming entries.

Sources and other reading material: