When we hear about global warming and climate change, we usually hear about the greenhouse effect. That the greenhouse effect is dangerous and endangering the planet’s atmosphere. The main element of warming up the world is CO2. Because burning of fossil fuels, like oil, coal and natural gas, CO2 is pumped in the air where it keeps on accumulating. It is an ongoing process that started at the start of the industrial revolution and keeps on continuing year after year and there is no end in sight.
The greenhouse effect, however, it is not a bad process at all. On the contrary, without it life on this planet would not be impossible. The atmosphere is a very thin layer of different gases, such as Nitrogen, Oxygen, CO2, Methane, other gases in smaller quantities, and water vapor.
CO2, Methane, water vapor and other gases are responsible for trapping heat in the atmosphere so the earth can maintain its average temperature. When the composition is changed then we cause a problem for ourselves and many species with us. The more heat is trapped, the more the average temperature is changing.
The extra water vapor isn’t the biggest problem as it, eventually, will fall down again. Yes, the amounts of rain, the intensities and location changes and intensifies, which causes many problems for many people on the ground.
Yet, it’s the accumulation of CO2 that is the biggest problem. CO2 is a hard nut to crack. It stays in the atmosphere for many centuries before it is broken down or otherwise naturally disposed. Scientist discovered a direct connection between the increase of global average temperatures and the increased accumulation of CO2.
However, CO2 isn’t the only gas that is causing the intensification of global warming and climate change. Methane is another gas to worry about as it traps much more heat than CO2 does. 10% extra of Methane in the atmosphere means an impact 10x as much as CO2 has.
Methane itself is colorless, odorless and it is in abundance everywhere. Methane is the main component of natural gas. It is formed when nature decomposes itself, when leaves are turning into soil, when we do our duty to compost. We see sometimes bubbles in standing water when there are old leaves and twigs on the bottom of a puddle or elsewhere. It is the Methane coming up. When we are digging for coal Methane is released. We see the big flares burning off Methane near mines. When we ‘frack’ our land in the search for natural gas methane escapes, when we have hydro dams methane escapes, also on our landfills methane constantly is pumped in the air. The arctic is melting and all the methane trapped inside, which has been there for millennia, is released in the atmosphere.
All the human interactions with nature, extracting natural gas, coalmining, building hydro dams, landfills, and so on, causes the release of so much more methane in the atmosphere than the atmosphere is capable of breaking down. On the positive side, methane compared with CO2, is broken down in a decade or so. It doesn’t have long term consequences. Yet, on the short term, we are causing a huge increase of methane in a very short time and in this very short time the effect of global warming and climate change is only strengthened and we are making it ourselves more difficult overcoming the challenge of reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and being able to adapt and mitigate global warming.
Technology is improving and many initiatives are taken to reduce the release of extra methane. Also each of us can contribute by reducing waste, donate or reuse clothes, and keep on recycling what can be recycled. We can invest in going green, solar power, wind energy, and take other actions to enforce (government) institutions to regulate energy production.
We have the knowledge and technology – let’s use it!