News of Zealand

Study Finds An Unexpected and Alarming Rise in Atmospheric Methane Levels

New Zealand, and its dairy industry, should take note.
Image via Shutterstock

A new study has revealed a large and unexpected rise in the amount of methane in the atmosphere since 2007. Despite methane emissions slowing down at the beginning of the century, these rates have ramped up significantly in the last four years – and we now have levels not seen since the 1980s.

Because these levels have come as a surprise, the implications were not included in the Paris Agreement targets. Report co-author Professor Martin Manning told the NZ Herald the goal to keep global temperature rise to below 2ºC would be threatened if nothing changed.

The biggest contributors to methane emissions are the fossil fuel industry and agriculture, and in New Zealand methane accounts for 40 percent of the emissions that have global warming potential. A recent report for the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment suggested that in order to prevent global warming, methane emissions would need to be cut by 10 to 22 percent by 2050. But despite these hopeful targets and predictions that levels were diminishing, the rise of methane is accelerating fast and it's showing no signs of slowing down.

Manning said there was disagreement in the scientific community about how we should account for methane emissions, but that we couldn’t afford to let this delay action. “Do we wait for total agreement? No. There are always differences in opinion on the details,” he said. “So there is no reason for New Zealand to delay setting up some generic form of a ‘zero carbon’ target while the details of how rapidly and how much that applies to agricultural production should be subject to review every five years.”

Manning also said there wasn’t enough debate on how New Zealand would reduce transport emissions rapidly. “Norway has a third of its new car sales being electric zero emission ones, so the most important question is how long will it take New Zealand to get there?”

Thankfully not everyone is hitting the snooze button when it comes to action. Thousands of Kiwi students are preparing to go “on strike” on March 15 to support a worldwide strike for climate change. Protests are being organised in more than 20 towns, from Russell to Invercargill, and tens of thousands of students are expected to flood the streets across Europe, United States, Australia and other countries.