Despite agreements to reduce methane emissions, satellites show record-high levels

Satellite data show that greenhouse gas concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere steadily increased in 2021, despite climate promises and the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. As per the European Earth observation program Copernicus, methane concentrations, in particular, have risen to a new high of about 1,900 parts per billion (ppb).

Methane, which is produced naturally by decaying materials as well as by agriculture and the energy industry, is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of warming the environment. Gas is one of the targets of a global agreement to reduce emissions made at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow in November of 2021.

The annual growth in methane concentrations also established a new high, reaching 16.3 parts per billion, slightly higher than in the year 2020 yet more than double the average yearly increase from 2005 to 2015. Scientists are still unsure what is causing the trend, according to Vincent-Henri Peuch, who is the director in charge of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), who spoke at a virtual news conference on Monday (January 10).

“Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas, and seeing the atmospheric concentration increase rate double that of the average is concerning,” Peuch added. “More research is needed to determine whether it’s component of the natural variability cycle or whether it’s tied to more recent trends and anthropogenic climate change effects.”

According to Peuch, the spike in methane content may represent a loss in the atmosphere’s capability to break down the gas, in addition to a rise in both natural and manmade methane emissions. Methane combines with oxygen in the atmosphere to generate carbon dioxide, which is less strong and more common. The complexities of these mechanisms are still a mystery to scientists.

The globe is nowhere near slowing down the expected course of climate change, as evidenced by the rapid growth in methane concentrations. Experts believe that because of the potency of methane, reducing its emissions might dramatically halt global warming. According to the European Commission, a 30% reduction in methane emissions by 2030 might lower the temperature rise projected by 2050 by 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.28 degrees Celsius).

Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere increased in 2021, according to data from the Copernicus satellite array. Carbon dioxide levels grew by 2.4 parts per million (ppm), hitting a high of 414.3 ppm on an annual basis. This rate of increase is slightly greater than the average from 2005 to 2015. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased by 50% since the late-eighteenth-century industrial revolution, as per a previous assessment by the UK Met Office, the country’s meteorological and climate authority.

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