Methane in the News

Methane, a natural gas and atmospheric pollutant, has been popping up more frequently recently in the media and, like the better known climate crisis driver that is carbon dioxide, it’s not good news. As Justin Worland and Heather Jones wrote for Time, methane “traps radiation more effectively [than CO2], making it a significant contributor to global warming.” Their article describes the recent methane gas leak in the L.A. area that is so severe it has displaced residents from their homes due to possible health risks. This single ongoing event may have a lasting effect on the Earth’s climate. The leak, according the article’s infographic, releases 1.6 million pounds of methane—which has the global warming equivalent of driving 4.5 million cars or raising 2.2 million cows—each day.

Methane emissions and other environmentally deleterious effects of the cattle industry were the focus of the 2014 documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, co-directed and starring Kip Anderson, an environmentalist that begins to question why agriculture isn’t the primary concern for climate groups. Anderson points out that the E.P.A. has admitted that in the U.S. nearly as much methane is emitted by livestock as by natural gas. For Anderson, the resources it takes to produce livestock and dairy and the environmental impact caused by that production has led him to adjust his diet to his conscious and eat vegetarian. 

As the globe warms, ice melts and the polar environments start to thaw. As the permafrost in the Arctic thaws, gases trapped underneath are released, and here again methane becomes a major issue. This situation creates a loop: the output of pollutants (e.g. car emissions) enable the input of more pollutants (methane from permafrost thaw), which worsens the problem. These instances show us that methane emissions are a major climate issue that should not be ignored.