Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 30 times more potent than CO2. It has many sources from animal to peatland. Some of the reasons that the amount is set to increase are that there is an increase in the human population, Increase in land being used for farming and a rising global temperature that is causing the peatlands and permafrost in the northern hemisphere to be damaged.
As the human population increases so does the need to grow food. A large portion of the population growth is happening in Asia. People in Asia tend to eat a diet that is heavy in rice. Half of the world’s population eat rice and 90% is consumed in Asia. You can see from the graph how rice consumption has gone up in recent decades. The problem with rice is the way that it is grown, which is in rice paddies. These are very water intensive which in itself is leading to water shortages in Asia. At the bottom of the rice paddy carbon monoxide is produced through the methanogenisis. This is the process by which microbes in the water create methane. It is believed that this is the way most human made methane is created.
Another source of methane is animal husbandry primarily from cows. 18% of methane emissions are thought to come from cows. As the world’s population is increasing and also becoming richer, the percentage of people eating meat is increasing. This means that more land will be needed to grow these new animals and the emissions from these animals will increase. There are a few funny ways to limit the amount of methane that these animals are creating such as cow methane backpacks. Although it may be interesting to see a field full of cows wearing backpacks did does not seem like it would be an effective solution to the problem. One solution would be for the western world to limit the amount of meat that it eats or just not be as wasteful as it tends to be. One that is bought in Europe is thrown away, this includes meat. If this food was not wasted it would mean that we would not have to produce more meat until the demand increased again from the rising population.
With the rising global temperature comes it is likely that the permafrost’s in the northern hemisphere are likely to melt. It is estimated that there are about 1,400 gigatons of carbon frozen in permafrost, this is more CO2 than is presently in the atmosphere. That statistic includes methane that converted to CO2 equivalent to make overall calculations more understandable. Some of this methane has already started to be released. The methane was buried in the permafrost during the ice age and is mostly made up of partially decayed roots and other plant material. When the permafrost melts the organic matter will start to decay. Normally when matter decays it will turn to carbon dioxide, but it needs oxygen to do this. With the matter decaying underground there is a limited amount of oxygen available so instead it will form carbon monoxide. This will then bubble to the surface and escapes. Recently sink holes have been discovered in northern Russia that scientists believed used to be methane stores. If this is found to be true huge amounts of methane are already being released into the atmosphere.
With all this extra carbon going into the atmosphere it is and the likelihood of more coming from permafrost, it is important to consider the impact that this will have on our planet. Also what it will mean for future generations. Methane gas doesn’t seem to get spoken about as much as carbon dioxide and it even rarer for people to talk about limiting its emissions. It is important to consider this when looking at climate change.