Atmospheric methane concentration at record levels

Global atmospheric concentration of methane has hit an all-time high — to 1,875 parts per billion (ppb) in 2019 from 1,866 ppb in 2018 — according to a new preliminary estimate released by the United States National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Not only is the 2019 figure the highest since record-keeping began in 1983, the increase during the year was the second-largest single-year leap in over two decades.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas — its potential to cause global warming is over 25 times that of carbon dioxide. They had argued that methane emissions would pose a massive challenge to the achievement of the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals.

Wetlands are a key source of atmospheric methane. Warm climate increases the efficiency of microbes that convert organic matter into methane, the 2019 paper stated. But there are also anthropogenic sources of methane — leaks from global oil and gas production system are a key source. as rising methane emissions were the sum total of natural and anthropogenic activity.


The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997, recognising that the developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of Greenhouse Gas (GHGs) in the atmosphere. Developing countries like India and China have no mandatory mitigation obligations or targets under the Kyoto Protocol.
Since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) seeks to stabilise Green House Gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would minimize interference with the climate system, the global community had in December, 2015 adopted another agreement in Paris which is meant for being operationalised post-2020 (end of the KP’s second commitment period).
Unlike the KP which requires only developed countries to take mandatory actions, the Paris Agreement mandates all countries to take action to minimise the impact of climate change as per their voluntary commitments and individual capacity.

UNFCCC: It was concluded at Rio de Janeiro during the Earth Summit conference in June 1992. It was the first global attempt to control the green house emission of the developed countries. The convention also provided for holding annual conferences of parties (COP) in order to negotiate and conclude a legally binding convention. Kyoto Protocol was concluded in December 1997 during COP-3 meet. It was the first successful attempt made to impose legally binding obligations on the industrialized countries to cut down their green house emission by at least 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2009-2012.

CLIMATE CHANGE:  Climate change refers to any change in climate over time whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. The term is commonly used interchangeably with global warming and green house effects and refers to increasing concentration of green house gases in the atmosphere that traps sun’s heat causes changes in weather pattern on a global scale.

Greenhouse gases allow sunlight (shortwave radiation) to pass through the atmosphere freely, where it is then partially absorbed by the surface of the Earth. Greenhouse gases are able to trap heat (longwave radiation) in the atmosphere, keeping the Earth’s surface warmer than it would be if they were not present. These gases are the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. Increases in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere enhances the greenhouse effect which is creating global warming and consequently climate change.
The ability of these gases to trap heat is what causes the greenhouse effect. So the more greenhouse gases you have in the atmosphere, the more heat stays on Earth. The principal forcing greenhouse gases are:

Carbon dioxide (CO2)
Methane (CH4)
Nitrous oxide (N2O)
Fluorinated gases


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