November 25, 2006

We don't even know that much about methane

Astonishingly, the Financial Times reports that levels of atmospheric methane - an influential greenhouse gas - have stayed almost flat for the past seven years, following a rise over 20 years.

The paper reports that methane, the big component of natural gas, warms the atmosphere through the greenhouse effect and helps to form ozone, an ingredient in smog.
Since the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s, atmospheric methane has more than doubled. About two-thirds of methane emissions can be traced to human activities such as fossil-fuel extraction, rice paddies, landfill sites and cattle. Methane is also produced by termites and wetlands.
Apparently, scientists believe one reason for the slowdown in methane concentration growth may be leak-preventing repairs made to oil and gas lines and storage facilities. Other reasons may include a slower growth or decrease in methane emissions from coal mining, rice paddies and natural gas production.

Surely this can't be an adequate explanation? I don't have one to offer, but with industrialisation of places like China and India proceeding apace this just does not feel plausible.

Thus a new discovery - methane stability - leads to a new question; how the hell is that happening?

And science at this stage is a basis for wholesale change in society?

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