Sharp Rise in Tropical Methane May Signal New Emissions Feedback Loop
A sharp, unexpected increase in methane emissions from the tropics, possibly a result of a climate feedback loop, now poses a significant threat to the Paris climate targets.
While researchers from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who discovered the methane rise are not yet certain about its mechanism, reports the Independent, they suspect microbial decomposition in tropical wetlands is accelerating as the planet warms. That, in turn, would mean more waste methane being “belched” into the atmosphere.
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The surge in emissions of this super-potent greenhouse gas is shocking: an increase of 50% between 2013 and 2018 compared with the previous five years.
Prof. Grant Allen, an atmospheric physicist from the University of Manchester involved in the Global Methane Budget project, told The Independent the increased emissions will “without a doubt” make the Paris targets all the more difficult to achieve.
He also issued a warning about the nature of feedbacks like the one that may be driving the acceleration of tropical methane release. While “likely” slow to start, “they will rapidly become something we can’t control,” he said. “Our scope to mitigate impacts is going.”A recent repost from E&E News offers a small glimmer of hope. A comment recently published in the journal Nature Sustainability proposes using porous minerals called zeolites “to capture methane and convert it into methanol, an alcohol that can be used in chemical feedstocks or other industrial applications.”