Pulling methane from the atmosphere could slow global warming — if we could figure out how to do it

“There is probably nothing we can do that will have a greater impact in lowering extreme temperatures over the next few decades than removing methane,” he says. Rob Jackson, a researcher at Stanford University and a co-author of both studies.

Methane is relatively rare: carbon dioxide is about 200 times more concentrated in the atmosphere. However, it has contributed about 30% of total global warming so far, or about 0.5°C, according to another Report From the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Although its lifespan in the atmosphere is only 10 years, over short periods of time it is about 86 times as strong as a greenhouse gas such as carbon dioxide.

Methane says: “The methane will disappear, but in the meantime, it will cause problems.” Vaishali Nike, an atmospheric scientist for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Because of its short life, if methane emissions were reduced today, atmospheric levels would drop rapidly. at recent days UNEP report on methane The researchers, who co-authored with Nike, estimated that cutting methane emissions by 45% today could reduce 0.28°C of warming by mid-century — keeping the world under a target of less than 1.5°C of warming above pre-industrial levels, as defined in the Paris Agreement.

Nike says that about two-thirds of these reductions can be achieved with readily available solutions. This includes plugging leaky natural gas wells and reducing reliance on coal mines, which store subsurface methane gas produced when plant matter turns into coal. It says cutting some emissions is likely to be cheaper and easier than scaling up the removal technology.

But to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, methane emissions from industries such as agriculture must also be reduced – which can be more challenging as populations grow.

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