Atmospheric methane levels surge in 2020 to highest level in millions of years

“If countries make plans now to put society on a path of sustained and dramatic cuts to emissions from today, we can avoid ever-rising emissions and the dangerously accelerating impacts of climate change.”

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A new report from NOAA confirmed that global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are at the highest level ever in the last 3.6 million years. The increasing trend exemplifies a “vicious cycle of global heating,” according to NOAA.

While 60 percent of methane emissions are said to be caused by human activity, researchers blame U.S. oil and gas exploration as one of the major causes of recent increases along with decay of organic matter in wetlands, and a byproduct of livestock farming.

“It is very scary indeed,” Euan Nisbet, professor of earth sciences at Royal Holloway University of London, said to the Financial Times.

But the effects of fossil fuel emissions on the atmosphere is easily forgotten, Professor Simon Lewis from University College London, said.

“It took over 200 years to increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 25 percent, and just 30 years to reach 50 percent above pre-industrial levels,” Lewis said. This dramatic change is like a human meteorite hitting Earth.”

While determining which sources are specifically responsible for the methane increase is difficult, NOAA used air samples conducted by the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado, to come to the conclusion “that a primary driver of the increased methane burden comes from biological sources of methane such as wetlands or livestock rather than thermogenic sources like oil and gas production and use,” according to the report. 

“If countries make plans now to put society on a path of sustained and dramatic cuts to emissions from today, we can avoid ever-rising emissions and the dangerously accelerating impacts of climate change,” Lewis said.

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