(ORDO NEWS) — Methane spike recorded in 2020 despite global lockdown, scientists baffled by biggest jump since counting began 4 decades ago
The puzzling rise in atmospheric methane levels in 2020 could be partly explained by the decline in nitric oxide emissions in the early stages of the covid-19 pandemic.
Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, is responsible for one-fifth of human-related atmospheric warming.
It can be emitted during the extraction and transportation of coal, natural gas and oil, as well as from biological sources such as livestock.
Atmospheric methane levels have been on the rise since 2007, but in 2020 it made its biggest annual jump since records began in 1983.
This rise is puzzling as fossil fuel use has declined in 2020 due to the slowdown in human activity caused by the covid-19 pandemic.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that the fossil fuel sector released less methane into the atmosphere that year than in 2019.
To figure out where the gas came from, Shushi Peng of Peking University in Beijing, China, and colleagues analyzed greenhouse gas inventories that countries submitted to the UN in 2020.
These inventories included data on emissions from agriculture, waste and fossil fuels in each country.
The researchers found that in 2020, global natural gas production was down 3.8 percent and global oil production was down 7.9 percent from the previous year.
Using this information, they calculated that methane emissions from these industries would be reduced by 3.1 million tonnes from the previous year.
The researchers also found that methane emissions from the global waste sector in 2020 were down slightly from the previous year, while emissions from the agricultural industry increased.
This suggests the pandemic hasn’t had as much of an impact on human methane emissions as expected, Peng said.
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