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Methane emissions spike with dangerous climate consequences

Cow farts are gonna kill us all.
Daniel Cooper, @danielwcooper
December 12, 2016
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If you thought that the only greenhouse gas worth panicking over was carbon dioxide, then you're gonna need a lie down. Methane, the Art Garfunkel / Luigi to CO2's Paul Simon / Mario (delete as appropriate) is on a mission to wreck our planet. A global team of researchers have found that global methane emissions are spiking, which has even more depressing consequences for our fragile environment.

Methane behaves differently to its more famous sibling since it only lingers in the atmosphere for a couple of decades before dispersing. But, like the candle that burns twice as bright, that short lifespan means that it does a lot more damage in a shorter time. The gas is far better at trapping heat, ensuring that the planet's temperature intensifies far faster, perfect for climate change.

Global methane emissions have gradually increased over the last few decades, at least until the last few years. Between 2014 and 2015, the figure jumped by more than 20 parts per billion, meaning that the atmosphere currently has 1,830 parts of methane per billion. By comparison, the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide passed the 400 parts per million in the Summer and may never decrease.

Methane isn't generated from burning fossil fuels, but instead is a key byproduct of agriculture and livestock production. It's often said that ruminant animals with four stomachs, like a cow, produces as harmful emissions as the most obnoxious 4x4. The researchers can't be entirely sure of the cause in the sudden spike, but believe that agriculture is probably to blame.

This report comes hot on the heels of another depressing study that revealed that hydroelectric dams are pretty awful, too. The supposedly green technology manages to create around one percent of the world's methane emissions. So if we have any chance of saving the Earth, we need to stop eating beef and avoid hydroelectric power in favor of wind and sola, pronto.

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