Methane: The other greenhouse gas

The latest UN climate report concludes that while carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main driver of global warming, another gas – methane – is likely responsible for between 30-50% of the current rise in temperatures. Methane is much more effective at trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere than CO2 is, but it also breaks down much faster, raising hopes that quick action to curb emissions could aid efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 C. Methane is the largest component found in natural gas and is also emitted during the process of fracking and coal production. It’s produced in large quantities by farmed animals but also leaks into the atmosphere when organic matter decomposes in landfills. A report published earlier this year claimed that if existing measures and technologies were used more widely, human-caused methane emissions could be cut by as much as 180 million tonnes a year by 2030. But others argue that until CO2 emissions are dealt with, methane will remain ‘a sideshow’ and that attention paid to the problem must not distract from the bigger threat. So, is enough being done to prevent the leakage of methane?

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