Scientists say this invisible gas could seal our fate on climate change
Slashing carbon dioxide emissions is critical to ending the climate crisis. But, for the first time, the UN climate change report emphasized the need to control a more insidious culprit: methane, an invisible, odorless gas with more than 80 times more warming power in the near-term than carbon dioxide.
According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the concentration of methane in the atmosphere is higher now than any time in at least 800,000 years.
With Earth rapidly approaching the 1.5-degree-Celsius threshold above preindustrial levels, scientists say methane emissions need to be reduced fast. Charles Koven, a lead author of the IPCC report, said this is due to methane’s incredible warming power.
If the world stopped emitting carbon dioxide tomorrow, Koven said, global temperatures wouldn’t begin to cool for many years because of how long the gas stays in the atmosphere. Reducing methane is the easiest knob to turn to change the path of global temperature in the next 10 years, he said.
Methane levels climbing
After a slowdown in the early 2000s, atmospheric methane concentrations have risen rapidly over the past decade, with five-year average growth rates now rivaling those seen in the 1980s.