What’s going on here?
Over a thousand methane emissions hotspots have been detected from new satellite data. The emissions appear to come from gas and oil facilities, with the US, Russia and Turkmenistan responsible for the most. In 2022 these “super-emitter” sites were shown spewing methane into the atmosphere at alarming rates.
What does this mean?
These emissions hotspots are caused by leaks or vents of methane from sites like oil and gas refineries. And they’re massive: the biggest leak released 427 tonnes of methane per hour, equivalent to the hourly national emissions of France.
These types of sites sometime emit methane deliberately, by venting the unwanted gas as it’s released from underground drilling. Other leaks are accidents, due to faulty equipment or poor maintenance.
Why should we care?
Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, and it currently causes about 25% of global heating. It causes huge damage in the atmosphere but it also disappears within a decade—much faster than carbon dioxide.
That means that curbing methane emissions offers an opportunity to make a rapid impact on the climate crisis and stay beneath the Paris target of 1.5 degrees Celsius of heating. A 45% cut by 2030 could save 0.3 degrees, and the UN reckons that’s a feasible goal.
If we fail to get on top of methane emissions, scientists warn it could push the world past vital climate tipping points. These tipping points risk triggering positive feedback loops which make warming worse.
🔍 Check out the map of methane leaks across the world.
🐄 Read the UN report on how cutting methane could help us hit the Paris target of 1.5 degrees.
⚖️ Watch this video about climate tipping points and why they’re dangerous.