Can’t claim I’ll be surprised if this chemistry turns out to be wrong. Seems to me there were large changes in rice paddy agriculture as methane levels stopped rising but a lot of natural gas was (is) still being vented or flared. Not that greenhouse gas levels are anywhere near as interesting as they were once thought to be anyway. I’m going to wait for the movie.
Here’s some good news about climate change: emissions of greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide have slowed and, in some cases, begun to decline. That means fewer molecules drifting in the atmosphere and blocking the escape of heat radiated by an Earth warmed by sunlight. The bad news is no one knows why.
Now a new study suggests that declines in ethane—a simple hydrocarbon molecule and component of the fossil fuel known as natural gas—can be attributed to companies stopping the practice of simply releasing the gas that comes up with every barrel of oil. Atmospheric measurements stretching from 1984 to 2010 suggest that ethane emission rates have fallen by a full 21 percent. The study is published in Nature on August 23. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group).
That’s important in its own right but also because of what it suggests about the second most abundant greenhouse gas—methane, another simple hydrocarbon and the most abundant molecule in natural gas. Over the span of a century, a methane molecule traps 25 times the amount of heat compared to the most abundant greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
So how much methane human activities put into the atmosphere has a big impact on how much global warming we end up creating this century (and beyond)—and represents a shortcut to restraining climate change, buying time to decrease CO2 emissions.