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Scientists say Methane is worse than previously thought.

- Thursday, October 29, 2009

Newly released research is indicating that Methane (CH4) is a much stronger greenhouse gas than has been previously thought. The IPCC currently allocates the warming potential of methane as 21 times that of carbon dioxide, but US scientists released the results of research this week based on which they argue that the warming potential of methane is 33 times that of carbon dioxide. Given that methane is one of the main greenhouse gases arising from agriculture, this finding could have major implications for agriculture in an emissions trading environment.


The researchers from the US Goddard Institute of Space Science carried out detailed modelling of the role of different gases in the atmosphere, and concluded that the warming potential of methane is currently under-estimated, because it ignores the interaction that occurs between methane and aerosols (minute particles of pollution) in the atmosphere, and this interaction creates a greater degree of warming than previously thought. 

Drew Shindell, the lead researcher for the project is reported in the Times Online   said “We undervalue methane. The whole point of having a scale is to relate different gases together, to enlarge the pool of mitigation options. But if you’ve got the wrong value for one, clearly you don’t have maximum efficiency.”  The researchers wrote in Science: “We found that gas-aerosol interactions substantially alter the relative importance of the various emissions. In particular, methane emissions have a larger impact than that used in current carbon-trading schemes or in the Kyoto Protocol.”

The findings, if validated, could have significant implications for the ruminant livestock industries, which are estimated to be a major source of methane under currently used international greenhouse accounting methodologies.  
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