The silver lining of the IPCC report: We can solve the methane problem now

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Monday, the The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change abandoned a landmark report on the state of the earth-spoiler alert-Doesn’t look good. The number one villain evaluated is carbon dioxide, but it also calls carbon dioxide2The lesser-known siblings: methane.The atmospheric concentration of this greenhouse gas is 80 times stronger than CO2, Now higher than any time at least 800,000 years, the report states. If humans can seriously reduce methane emissions, it will have a huge and rapid impact on climate change.

“Methane is the next critical, fast, and climate-stable prize,” said senior director and White House liaison Rick Duke. Presidential Special Envoy on Climate Change, At the Monday press conference after the report was released. “There is nothing closer to ensuring our near-term climate future, gaining critical time for us to achieve energy decarbonization and develop advanced options such as Negative emission technology. “

“Reducing methane emissions is currently the fastest and most effective way to slow down the rate of warming,” agreed Elisa Okko, a senior climate scientist at the Environmental Protection Fund.

Like carbon dioxide, methane Carbon; Its chemical formula is CH4. It is the main component of natural gas and many ecosystems. Decaying vegetation produces methane—wetlands are particularly high emitters. When insects such as termites and ungulates such as cattle digest food, they also produce methane. (mainly Cow hiccups, Is not fart, contains gas. )

But at the same time CH4 It is a completely natural component of the earth’s atmosphere, and the amount added to the sky now is far from natural. An important factor is livestock farming, which includes not only cows, but also sheep and pigs-all this manure will add more methane.In the United States, this “intestinal fermentation” is causing excessive One-quarter of domestic methane emissionsThe production and transportation of natural gas, coal, and oil accounted for another 30%, and landfills—after all, full of decaying vegetation—increased by 17%.

When determining the intensity of greenhouse gases, there are two main considerations: how efficiently the molecule captures heat, and how long it can survive in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases, such as CO2 And CH4 Both are very effective at suppressing heat; they actually help the earth to be livable by preventing heat from escaping into space. But methane does a better job in this regard. “You have a carbon connected to two oxygen atoms in CO2 Molecules, but a carbon is attached to Four The hydrogen atoms in methane molecules,” said Matthew Hayek, an environmental scientist at New York University who studies methane. “So when the bonds between these atoms receive or absorb infrared radiation, there are more ways to vibrate and re- Emit infrared radiation. ”

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“The heat absorbed by a pound of methane emitted is more than 100 times that of carbon dioxide2 When it was first released, “Environmental Protection Fund climate scientist Sun Tianyi who specializes in methane agrees. However, she pointed out that methane disappears faster. “It only lasts in the atmosphere for about ten years, and then it disappears. NS. “In contrast, carbon dioxide can last for centuries.

Before humans started mass production of each gas, when these gases were naturally produced, they would float into the atmosphere, absorb radiation, and decompose through oxidation on different time scales.so A volcano May emit carbon monoxide2 Into the atmosphere, The wetland will slowly Boiling methane, But both will eventually dissipate. The atmosphere can exist in a balanced state, forming a kind of blanket that keeps the earth warm but not too hot.



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