Climate researchers have warned that the emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas and contributor to climate change, have reached record high levels in recent years.
Data compiled from around the world showed the biggest spike in methane concentrations in the atmosphere since 2000, a team of scientists reported in an analysis published on Sunday in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
“Methane in the atmosphere was almost flat from about 2000 through 2006. Beginning 2007, it started upward, but in the last two years, it spiked,” said Rob Jackson, an earth scientist at Stanford University and one of the co-authors of the analysis.
The new study suggested that global food production is a key factor in greenhouse emissions.
“We think the increase in food production globally has led to the increase in emissions, which has contributed to the higher concentration of methane in the atmosphere,” said one of the co-authors of the analysis, Pep Canadell.
“We found the most dominant driver of emissions growth was agriculture, with livestock,” he said.
The analysis showed that livestock, cattle in particular, deforestation for rice paddies, and waste landfills are big sources of methane emission.
“We know this is a problem, but we haven’t really addressed it,” added Canadell. “Partially because, in many parts of the world, there’s the bigger issue of making sure there’s enough food being produced.”
The findings could give new global attention to methane, which has much less impact on the climate compared to carbon dioxide but is nevertheless an important contributor to global warming.
Canadell, who works with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and is a member of the Global Carbon Project, said research showed that carbon dioxide was responsible for 80 percent of all increased warming resulting from human activity, such as burning fossil fuels, including gas and coal.
In 2015, world countries signed the Paris Climate Agreement at the Paris Climate Conference, acknowledging the need to accelerate anti-global warming efforts.
The Paris Climate Agreement came into force on November 4, 2016.
The agreement requires countries across the world to cap and reduce the emission of climate pollutant gasses.