Methane and Climate Change
Methane Is A Greenhouse Gas
are gases in earth's atmosphere that trap solar radiation and warm the atmosphere in the same way that a greenhouse increases the temperature within its bounds. Greenhouse gases
Carbon dioxide is probably the most well-known greenhouse gas and the burning of fossil fuels has led to an increase in carbon dioxide which is often blamed for human induced climate change. However, methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas; 21 times more effective at trapping solar radiation than carbon dioxide.
Human activity is increasing the production of methane as well as carbon dioxide and is potentially a major problem for the global climate.
There are a number of sources of methane.
Here Are Some Of The Major Sources of Methane
1. Cattle and other livestock.
3. Rice Paddies.
5. Melting Permafrost.
6. Oil Industry/Mining
Whilst some of these sources of methane may seem natural, after a little thought it is clear that humans have had a hand in the increase of methane by all these methods.
What is Methane? It Is A Gas Isn't It?
I guess that most of us know that methane is a gas but here is an extract from the Wikipedia entry for Methane to tell us a little more about it.
"Methane is a chemical compound with the molecular formula CH4. It is the simplest alkane, and the principal component of natural gas. Burning methane in the presence of oxygen produces carbon dioxide and water. The relative abundance of methane and its clean burning process makes it a very attractive fuel."
An Inconvenient Truth - An Easy Way To Learn Something About Climate Change
Remember, it isn't the final word on climate change, but it is an accessible book/movie to get some ideas of the issues involved.
Read an inconvenient Truth by Al Gore to get an insight into the problems the world faces because of climate change. Remember, climate change is a fact; human driven global warming is a theory. This book does a good job of explaining these facts and outlining the theory although it does tend to overstate the evidence and treat the theory as fact.
This movie is essentially a lecture by Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore on human driven climate change and global warming. The movie does a good job of bringing this issue to a large audience, but it should be remembered that it almost always quotes the worst possible of scenarios in order to expose the viewer to the most shocking ideas.
1. Cattle & Other Livestock As A Source of Methane.
The stomachs of cattle and other grazing livestock contain large numbers of bacteria which break down the cellulose in the plants they eat. These bacteria excrete methane which enters the atmosphere via the livestock's mouths and bottoms!
Whilst this is a natural process, the numbers of cattle, sheep and goats on earth now are man-made. As humans have cleared forest and created pasture the demand for meat has increased and with it the numbers of methane-belching livestock. Wild ruminants also produce methane but the numbers that would inhabit the natural environments destroyed by intensively cultivated pasture would be much lower.
In this rather strange way mankind has increased the production of methane - a very powerful greenhouse gas.
As undeveloped countries become more developed, the demand for meat increases. This means that unless humans begin to eat less meat the production of methane through livestock is likely to increase.
2. Termites - A Methane Emitting Culture
Termites produce methane in the same way as livestock; the bacteria in their gut help them break down wood and they excrete methane. In fact they excrete a lot of methane, as much as five liters per minute for one termite mound. But how are humans responsible for this?
Well, in the same way that humans have artificially increased livestock numbers, so termite numbers have increased because of human activity. As forests are logged open country habitats replace them and often becomes more arid - ideal termite habitat has been created and so they thrive. At first the relationship between man and termites may seem tenuous, but this is a side effect of deforestation that rarely is discussed. Deforestation results in the release of carbon dioxide as stumps are burned, reduce sequestration of the same gas, extinction of populations of animals and plants, soil erosion, reduced rainfall and now we can add the increased production of methane from the resultant boom in termite populations to this list.
Read more about this issure here: Termites emit methane.
3. Rice Paddies
Habitats low in oxygen, such as marshy waters, have always been full of the methane-producing bacteria but the huge area under rice cultivation, which is often kept irrigated year round where naturally it would be dry for part of the year, produces huge amounts of methane and rice appears to speed up the process of venting it into the atmosphere.
As the world becomes more populated and demand for rice increases, the area under rice agriculture grows, year round rice production is introduced to more regions and the amount of methane produced in this way continues to increase.
4. Landfill Sites
In the region of 30% of all waste which ends up in landfills is capable of rotting. As it rots, methane is produced - that is what can sometimes be seen burning from small chimneys at old landfill sites.
In some places this methane is put to good use and pumped into houses for use as domestic gas. However, in most places around the world this does not happen; the methane gas simply seeps out into the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect 21 times more efficiently than carbon dioxide.
5. Melting Permafrost & Warming Oceans
Permafrost is ground which is permanently frozen. However, as the climate warms, either naturally or as a result of man's actions, this permafrost begins to melt. Within this permafrost is locked an enormous amount of methane; this begins to be released into the atmosphere to further increase the greenhouse effect, increasing temperature, melting more permafrost, releasing more methane - a feedback loop which runs out of control.
In similar fashion, methane which is locked in the mud of the continental shelves of the oceans becomes free as the waters warm through climate change. This mud may hold trillions of tons of methane which if released would be catastrophic for the Earth's climate.
6. Oil Industry/Mining
The oil and mining industries release large amounts of underground methane when they penetrate into fossil fuel deposits. In some countries with large operations in these industries the amount of methane released is larger from other sources, but on a worldwide level this source of this greenhouse gas is lower than many other sources and certainly lower than all the biogenic sources put together.
These industries do create a large amount of methane but it is surprising that it is not the world's largest source. Although with the increase in "fracking" this source of methane is increasing and there are lots of other environmental problems surrounding this industry including including huge amounts of waste material, pollution, habitat destruction and others.
Learn More About The Issues Surrounding Climate Change
There are many publications available for those that want to know more about global warming and climate change. Here are just two of the more simple ones available.
A well-written book, by an authoritative author, detailing the issues surrounding global warming and its effects around the world.
All the facts surrounding climate change written in an informative but accessible style. Natural and human-driven issues are discussed as are alternatives to carbon-based energy sources.
Climate Change Scepticism - Form A Balanced Opinion On Climate Change
It is worth mentioning here that although a large number of scientists agree on the mechanisms of climate change and after many, many years they have succeeded in getting politicians to accept their views, there are still a number of respected scientists who disagree.
Although many of the arguments put forward against human-induced climate change can be relatively easily countered, it is always good to get both sides of the argument before forming an opinion.
Whilst the sceptics can often use inflammatory language to argue their point, equally environmentalists are prone to overstating their case. Reading some of the following in conjunction with books supporting the human-driven climate change theory may help to form a balanced opinion.
Exploding myths about climate change and examining how best to tackle the problem over the long-term instead of reactionary and poorly thought-out measures.
What Do You Think Is The Biggest Threat? Vote Here
Which of these do you think is most influential in increasing methane levels in the atmosphere?
Alternative Energy Link List - Make Your Own Green Power
- Perpetual Magnetic Generator- Eliminate Those High E...
The average household spends upwards of $1500 per year on electricity. One perpetual energy generator alone can lower your energy bill 30-50% yielding an average savings of at least $700 per year! With a material cost of about $100, one unit could...
- Secret for Generating Free Electircity: Magnets
SECRET for GENERATING FREE ELECTRICITY: MAGNETS I was looking for something that would lower my utility bill. Something that would move me more towards a green living. Of course, I researched solar power and then wind power and...
- Earth4Energy Review - Create Your Own Energy
Earth4Energy is an incredible guide with easy to follow step by step instructions on how to make & install your own solar power or/and wind generated power system for your home. It explains and show you how to reduce your power bill by 80% or eve
- Build Your Own Solar Panels
In the articles Below I will Teach you All You Need To Know About HomeMade Solar Panels And How To Build Your Own Solar Panels. Not only is this very cool and hip it will also help you Get rid of the Burden of your electricty company And Instead ...
- How to build your own miniature wind turbine at home...
This simple homemade project is cheap and relatively easy. Find out how to make electricity through wind energy.
Acknowledgements - The End Of Nature By Bill McKibben
The inspiration for this lens came after reading The End of Nature by Bill McKibben, from which some of the information originated. This is an informative book about the environment, although it is slightly pessimistic about the future which can become depressing to read.
© 2008 nickupton lm