Record increase in the concentration of methane in the atmosphere in 2021

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Record rise in the concentration of methane in the atmosphere in 2021

If methane lasts less time in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, it is also much more effective at retaining the heat of the sun and accentuating the greenhouse effect.

The concentration of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, surged through the atmosphere in 2021 to an all-time high, with CO2 and nitrous oxide also continuing to break records, revealed Wednesday the UN.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) notes that the reason for this exceptional increase compared to 2020 in the rate of methane, which has a much more powerful effect than CO2, but less long-lasting, is not clear, but appears to be the result of both biological and human-induced processes, in a statement on the occasion of the release of its Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.< /p>

These figures once again underscore the enormous challenge – and the vital need – for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent temperatures from rising even further. future globally, said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

On the same day, the UN climate agency warned that the latest international commitments fall far short of meeting the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

“We are going in the wrong direction. »

— Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization

In 2020 and 2021, the concentration of methane – the second largest contributor to global warming – increased by 15 and 18 parts per billion (ppb). The origin of the emissions is difficult to establish because the sources of emissions and the sinks that absorb the gas can merge, explains the WMO.

There are cost-effective strategies to tackle methane emissions, especially in the fossil fuel sector, and we must implement them without delay, Petteri Taalas underlined.

He There has been a lot of talk about methane lately with the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, or the plan to tax livestock gas emissions in New Zealand. On Tuesday, NASA revealed that it had detected dozens of methane super-emitters from space.

Sites generally linked to the fossil fuel, waste treatment or even agriculture sectors.

As regards the continuous increase in the level of methane in the x27;atmosphere since 2007, scientists are not yet certain, but they believe that much of it comes from biogenic sources, such as wetlands or rice paddies.

It is too early to tell if the jumps recorded in 2020 and last year are due to the faster decomposition of organic matter in the water, under the effect of increased heat , or episodes of La Nina, which create favorable conditions for the emission of methane by increasing precipitation in tropical regions.

But Mr. Taalas also points out that the enemy to be killed above all is carbon dioxide.

The top priority is to drastically and urgently reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which are the main culprits of climate change and associated extreme weather events, the WMO boss warned, adding that these emissions will impact the climate for thousands of years through melting polar ice caps, warming oceans and rising sea levels.

In 2021, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide was 415.7 parts per million (ppm), that of methane was 1908 ppb, and that of nitrous oxide was 334. 5 ppb, an increase of 149%, 262% and 124%, respectively, compared to pre-industrial times.

Global CO2 emissions have started to rise again since the end of lockdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Between 2011 and 2020, approximately 48% of total CO2 emissions from human activities had accumulated in the atmosphere, 26% in the oceans and 29% in the terrestrial biosphere.

There is concern that terrestrial ecosystems and oceans are less efficient in their function of “sinks”, which would reduce their ability to absorb carbon dioxide and prevent a more marked rise in temperature, underlines the OMM, which notes that in certain regions In the world, CO2 sinks are becoming a source of gas.

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