Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Methane Levels Will Rise Again

The mystery of why atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas methane have basically remained the same since 1999 may have been solved. According to a team of scientists reporting in Nature we would be mistaken to believe that somehow a harmonious balance has at last been achieved between human and natural methane sources and methane sinks. No such luck. These scientists who measured air samples around the world found that methane emissions from human sources were not reduced to the level of sustainability but rather the effects of increased emissions were hidden because the amount of swampy land was reduced either because of drought or changes in land use. Less swampy land means less methane-producing bacteria. So, the explanation wasn't different diets for cows, more capping of landfills, or improved industrial processes. An atmospheric chemist from Germany, Jos Lelieveld, sums it up nicely "Clearly this is not good news. Rather, wetlands are expected to become larger in northern regions, for example, as areas of permafrost melt. Scientists fear that this might release vast amounts of the greenhouse gas." Lelieveld also offered his opinion on the best way to curb global warming saying that "the easiest and most time-effective way to control climate change is to start acting on methane."

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