Methane is a gas found on most planets with atmospheres. In limited amounts, it isn’t a particularly problematic gas. In larger amounts, however, it can become a regulator of atmosphere temperatures.
Methane and Potential Impacts on Global Warming
Methane is fairly common gas found in nature. It is produced from both natural elements of the biomass cycle and artificial industrial sources. Methane is classified as a greenhouse gas and is believed to contribute to global warming.
Methane (CH4) is a problematic greenhouse gas for a variety of reasons. First, it has a long life once it is in the atmosphere, to wit, it will remain suspended in the upper atmosphere anywhere from nine to 15 years depending on climatic conditions. Second, methane is much more lethal when it comes to trapping heat in the atmosphere, being as much as 20 times better at doing the job than the much discussed carbon dioxide.
The unique chemical makeup of Methane is what makes it a problem. Once it gets situated in the upper atmosphere, it acts as a sponge for infrared radiation being reflected from the planet towards space. By doing so, it acts as a gas coat around the planet, heating us up as time passes. Since we can count on it sitting in the atmosphere for roughly 10 years, massive accumulations of methane can have a devastating impact over time.
There is nothing we can do to stop natural methane sources. On the industrial side, however, there are a lot of areas that can be addressed. The production of methane through our actions is primarily through natural gas, petroleum, agricultural, coal mining, waste water reclaiming and landfill systems. All produce methane to a certain degree, some on a very large scale.
Modifying our behavior on methane production is actually a win-win situation. Unlike carbon dioxide, methane can be used as an energy source in and of itself. The technology is complex and the gas can be unstable, but we have certainly accomplished far more difficult tasks. The bigger point is that we don’t have to stop any activity that produces methane, just modify such activities to make use of the methane.
Global warming is a controversial topic. There is little doubt it is occurring. The real question is what it will mean as temperatures increase. Nobody really seems to know. What is clear is our current climatic situation is fairly calm. If you agree, why risk moving to a more chaotic one?