The increase in methane levels in the Earth’s atmosphere has prompted worries regarding the ongoing climate transition. The escalation of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, has led to discussions about the possibility of Earth undergoing a ‘termination-level transition’ akin to historical climate shifts.
GS III: Environment and Ecology
Dimensions of the Article:
- Termination-Level Transition
- Methane’s Threat to Warming Limits
- Initiatives Combatting Methane Emissions
- Methane is the simplest hydrocarbon, composed of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms (CH4).
- It is flammable and widely utilized as a global fuel source.
Potent Greenhouse Gas:
- Methane holds significant greenhouse gas properties.
- Over the initial 20 years of its atmospheric existence, methane’s warming potential surpasses carbon dioxide by more than 80 times.
Diverse Emission Sources:
- Approximately 60% of methane emissions stem from fossil fuel utilization, farming, waste, and landfills.
- Natural sources, particularly decaying vegetation in tropical and northern wetlands, account for the remaining emissions.
- The term “termination-level transition” signifies a remarkable and sudden alteration in Earth’s climate from one state to another.
- These shifts manifest through swift and substantial changes in diverse climatic elements, carrying potential extensive impacts on ecosystems, weather patterns, and overall environmental equilibrium.
- Earth’s historical timeline has witnessed termination-level transitions, frequently linked to the culmination of ice ages and the ensuing transition into warmer interglacial periods.
- The triggers for these transitions encompass various factors such as alterations in ocean currents and modifications in atmospheric composition.
Methane’s Threat to Warming Limits
Potent Heat Trapper:
- Methane outperforms carbon dioxide (CO₂) in heat retention capability.
- Its atmospheric life span is shorter, lasting less than a decade, unlike CO₂ that persists for centuries.
- Despite its lower presence, methane’s heat-trapping potency is 28-36 times stronger over a century.
- Initial methane content was 0.7 parts per million (ppm) before human fossil fuel consumption.
- It has now exceeded 1.9 ppm and is escalating rapidly.
Challenges for Temperature Control:
- Escalating methane levels complicate achieving safe global warming limits.
- Augmented methane intensifies the greenhouse effect, exacerbating temperature elevation.
- Rising methane content brings the planet closer to perilous temperature thresholds.
- Methane-induced warming triggers further methane release from thawing permafrost and melting Arctic ice.
- Such a feedback loop magnifies the warming consequences.
- Elevated methane levels disrupt ecosystems, impede natural processes, and impact biodiversity.
- Vulnerable habitats like wetlands are especially susceptible to methane-induced transformations.
Sea-Level Rise Catalyst:
- Methane amplifies sea-level rise by accelerating polar ice and glacier melting.
- This further jeopardizes coastal communities and exacerbates climate change repercussions.
Initiatives Combatting Methane Emissions
- ‘Harit Dhara’ (HD): An anti-methanogenic feed supplement developed by ICAR that reduces cattle methane emissions by 17-20% and enhances milk production.
- India Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Program: Led by WRI India, CII, and TERI, this industry-led framework helps organizations measure and manage greenhouse gas emissions for sustainable business practices.
- National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC): Launched in 2008, NAPCC raises awareness about climate change and outlines strategies to counter its effects.
- Bharat Stage-VI Norms: India adopted more stringent BS-VI emission norms to control vehicular emissions.
- Methane Alert and Response System (MARS): Integrates satellite data to detect methane emissions globally and notifies stakeholders for immediate action.
- Global Methane Pledge: Around 100 countries pledged at UNFCCC COP 26 to reduce methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 compared to 2020 levels.
- Global Methane Initiative (GMI): An international partnership promoting the recovery and use of methane as a clean energy source.
-Source: Down To Earth