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Wed Feb 6, 2019, 02:03 PM

Diffusing the methane bomb: We can still make a difference

http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/about/news/190206-Tundra-methane.html
06 February 2019

Diffusing the methane bomb: We can still make a difference

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, causing the carbon containing permafrost that has been frozen for tens or hundreds of thousands of years to thaw and release methane into the atmosphere, thereby contributing to global warming. The findings of a study that included researchers from IIASA, however, suggest that it is still possible to neutralize this threat

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In their analysis, the researchers quantified the upper range value for natural methane emissions that can be released from the Arctic tundra, as it allows it to be put in relation to the much larger release of methane emissions from human activities. Although estimates of the release of methane from natural sources in the Arctic and estimates of methane from human activity have been presented separately in previous studies, this is the first time that the relative contribution of the two sources to global warming has been quantified and compared.

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According to the researchers, their findings confirm the urgency of a transition away from a fossil fuel based society as well as the importance of reducing methane emissions from other sources, in particular livestock and waste. The results indicate that man-made emissions can be reduced sufficiently to limit methane-caused climate warming by 2100 even in the case of an uncontrolled natural Arctic methane emission feedback. This will however require a committed, global effort towards substantial, but feasible reductions.

“In essence, we want to convey the message that the release of methane from human activities is something we can do something about, especially since the technology for drastic reductions is readily available - often even at a low cost. If we can only get the human emissions under control, the natural emissions should not have to be of major concern,” concludes Höglund-Isaksson.

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https://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-37719-9

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