How Does Co2 And Methane Contribute To Global Warming – Methane, the primary component of fracked gas, is a highly questionable solution to decarbonization or reducing greenhouse gases. Fracked gas is commonly touted as a “cleaner” alternative to other fossil fuels, but that notion comes from looking at just one pixel in the full emissions picture. Our common understandings are not accurate. When researchers examine the full climate impact of natural gas, many conclude that it is not substantially better than other fossil fuels and may even be worse under some circumstances.

It is true that fracked gas reduces non-greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution, such as particulate matter and sulfur dioxide. But we need to challenge the idea that we need to build more large-scale fracked gas infrastructure instead of choosing solutions that reduce these pollutants without introducing more methane – “CO2 on steroids” – into the atmosphere.

How Does Co2 And Methane Contribute To Global Warming

How Does Co2 And Methane Contribute To Global Warming

This is part of a trilogy of articles to provide depth and context to methane leaks. Read the other pieces in this series:

Major Causes Of Climate Change

Methane (CH4) makes up 85 to 95 percent of natural gas and it is the second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide (CO2). It is found in oil fields and coal basins, where it is sometimes intentionally “vented” into the atmosphere during oil or coal extraction. Venting can take place throughout the supply chain: at drilling sites, pipelines, and processing and storage sites (including the infrastructure that refines and transports gas to industrial and residential customers). “Fugitive emissions”—unintended leaks from natural gas distribution infrastructure such as drilling sites, pipelines and compressor stations—add more unburned methane to the atmosphere.

Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases (GHG) affect the temperature and climate system of the earth. They absorb some frequencies of infrared radiation emitted from the Earth’s surface, trapping heat in the atmosphere that would otherwise go into space.

There are naturally occurring methane sources, but for this analysis it is most relevant and critical to talk about the emissions produced by human activity. We will discuss them in terms of warming potential rather than mass or volume, because while human activities release less methane than carbon into the atmosphere, methane is many times more powerful than CO2 at trapping heat, meaning that emission volumes are not as must be much more than CO2. high to have serious climate consequences. Methane emissions contribute to about a third of current human-made greenhouse gas warming, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even though they are only 10 percent of annual U.S. emissions and 20 percent of global emissions1.

The heat-trapping power of methane is not the only nuisance. It can react with other chemicals in the atmosphere to form ozone, the primary component of smog which is another potent greenhouse gas. Ozone has created air quality problems in areas near natural gas drilling sites and has raised air quality in some rural areas well beyond federal clean air standards. Higher global concentrations of methane can significantly increase ground-level ozone, even in areas adjacent to natural gas drilling sites.

Tracking Methane From Space Could Be Key To Helping Slow Global Warming

Methane affects atmospheric chemistry in other negative ways as well. Methane leaves the atmosphere primarily through oxidation, which is a reaction with hydroxyl radicals (OH) that form water vapor and CO2. Hydroxyl radicals are naturally occurring, highly reactive molecules that act as a “cleansing agent”, cleaning methane and many other pollutants from the atmosphere. By reacting with hydroxyl radicals, methane reduces the amount of “detergent” available for cleaning other types of pollution.

Research into the effect of methane on climate change shows seemingly contradictory figures. Some sources will state that methane has a heat capacity nearly 90 times greater than CO2, while others cite a heat trapping power approximately 30 times greater than CO2. These are not contradictory claims – the sources are simply looking at the global warming potential of methane over different time frames.

Global warming potentials, often referred to as GWP, were established to allow comparisons of greenhouse gas impacts. The global warming potential of a gas is a measure of how much energy (heat) the gas absorbs in the atmosphere over a certain time period compared to how much heat the same amount of CO2 would absorb. The greater the GWP, the more a greenhouse gas warms the earth compared to CO2. Since carbon dioxide is the baseline to which other gases are compared, it has a GWP of one. If methane gas has a GWP of 87, it means that one tonne of methane produces the same average warming as 87 tonnes of CO2.

How Does Co2 And Methane Contribute To Global Warming

Different gases remain in the atmosphere for different lengths of time, so the comparison must also be based on a time frame. While CO2 can remain in the atmosphere for centuries, methane is removed from the atmosphere faster by natural processes. As a result of oxidation and a few other processes that remove much smaller amounts of methane from the atmosphere, methane remains in the atmosphere for about 12 years on average. One useful way to think about atmospheric lifetime is this: if a proposed fracked gas project has an expected life span of 60 years, the plant’s methane emissions would live in the atmosphere for about 72 years. Atmospheric processes would convert these emissions to carbon dioxide on a rolling basis.

Greenhouse Gases Continued To Increase Rapidly In 2022

There are many atmospheric processes that affect methane, and methane in turn affects other climate-changing processes, so analyzing the exact impact of global warming depends on which of several complex atmospheric processes are considered . In a 2009 study by scientists from NASA and Columbia University, researchers evaluated a variety of atmospheric processes and compositions and estimated that methane’s global warming potential could be 79 to 105 times greater than CO2 over a 20-year time frame. By analyzing the GWP of methane over 100 years, they concluded that the GWP of methane was 26 to 41 times higher than carbon dioxide.

The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report estimates the 20-year GWP value of methane at 86 and 100-year GWP at 34. The IPCC figures are widely accepted by experts and are most often cited in the discussing the climate impacts of greenhouse gases. As we learn more about methane and feedback in the climate system, the GWP of methane has continuously increased. The IPCC’s 1995 report, for example, put the 100-year GWP of methane at 21. The GWP of methane increased by about 20 percent between the IPCC’s Fourth and Fifth Assessment Reports, when the IPCC first made multiple feedbacks recorded in the atmosphere that cause methane to produce other gases that trap heat, such as ozone and water vapor. The GWP of methane is also changing as our understanding of the warming potential of CO2 has improved over the last 20 years, as has our understanding of how long methane typically stays in the atmosphere before being converted to CO2.

Methane is CO2 on steroids. It spends roughly 12 years trapping atmospheric heat 87 times more effectively than CO2, then it becomes CO2 itself.

The time frame we choose to evaluate methane can have a major impact on both our policy decisions and our understanding of the basic environmental impacts of fracked gas projects. Not surprisingly, there is heated debate about whether it is best to look at the impact of methane over a 20-year time frame or over a 100-year time frame. The fossil fuel industry uses the 100-year time frame, at least in part because it makes methane less harmful. Scientists also tend to look at climate change data over longer time frames. But some argue that the need to act quickly on climate change means we need to pay as much attention to nearer-to-100-year impacts.

How Cutting Methane Emissions Can Move The Needle On Climate Change

The debate about 20-year versus 100-year effects can sometimes distract from the essential fact underlying both time frames: if the best you can say about the climate effects of natural gas is that they are 34 times worse than CO2 over a 100-year time frame, maybe natural gas is more of a problem than a solution.

1. Note that the EPA here used values ​​from the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report (AR4), which gives methane a GWP of 25. The current understanding of the GWP of methane is 34, so the sentence reflects the number of EPA as a minimum or an equivalent. These EPA figures are also based on a 100-year global warming potential for methane. ↩ Donate this Giving Tuesday and join others who are doing their part to defend wildlife, protect our air and water, and protect the future of our planet.

By increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, we strengthen the natural greenhouse effect of the planet and turn the knob on global warming.

How Does Co2 And Methane Contribute To Global Warming

The greenhouse effect is a good thing. It warms the planet to temperatures that keep life on Earth, well, viable. Without it, the world would be more like Mars: a frozen, uninhabitable place. The problem is that burning fossil fuels for energy artificially enhances the natural greenhouse effect. The result? An increase in global warming that is changing the climate system of the planet. Here’s a look at what the greenhouse effect is, what causes it and how we can moderate its contributions to our changing climate.

Realclimate: The Definitive Co2/ch4 Comparison Post

The greenhouse effect is the natural warming of the earth that occurs when there are gases in it

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