Methane and Climate Change
- Methane (CH4) is the simplest hydrocarbon, consisting of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms.
- It is produced by both natural process and human activities. Major natural sources of methane include emissions from wetlands and oceans, and from the digestive processes of termites.
- Methane is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil. Methane emissions also result from livestock and other agricultural practices, land use and by the decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills.
- Globally, 50-65 percent of total CH4 emissions come from human activities.
- Although the concentration of methane in Earth’s atmosphere is small (around 1.8 parts per million), it is an important greenhouse gas because it is such a potent heat absorber.
- Methane’s lifetime in the atmosphere is much shorter than carbon dioxide (CO2), but CH4 is more efficient at trapping radiation than CO2 (almost 25 times more potent than CO2).
- Methane contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone, a dangerous air pollutant.
Why in the news?
- Recently GLOBAL METHANE ASSESSMENT has been published by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the United Nations Environment Programme.
Some of the key points of the report are:
- More than half of global methane emissions stem from human activities in three sectors: fossil fuels (35 percent of human-caused emissions), waste (20 percent) and agriculture (40 per cent).
- It has asked the countries to reduce human-caused methane emissions by 45% by 2030. This is a cost-effective step required to achieve the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 1.5° C target.
- It has recommended different targets and areas for different countries. For India it has recommended to reduce methane emissions in the waste sector. The waste sector could cut its methane emissions by improving the disposal of sewage.
- Focused strategies specifically targeting methane need to be implemented to achieve sufficient methane mitigation.
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