Feb 20, 2020 - Science

Study: Methane gas emissions could be greater than previously known

Flaring natural gas burns by jack pumps at an oil well near Buford, North Dakota. Photo: William Campbell/Corbis via Getty Images

Greenhouse gas emissions from methane, which largely originates from natural gas production and agriculture, have been underestimated by 25% to 40% compared to recent gauges, per a new study in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

Why it matters: Methane gas is more potent than CO2 at trapping heat on a pound-for-pound basis in the short-term, which makes it an important factor to weigh as countries tackle global warming.

What they found: Ancient samples of air from Greenland's ice sheets contained "very little of the oldest type of methane — multimillion-year-old fossil methane gas," the Washington Post reports. This suggests that the Earth's current methane-addled atmosphere is caused by humans exploiting fossil fuels.

What they're saying: Harvard atmospheric scientist and methane expert Daniel Jacob told the Post that the study represented an “important result, because the current estimates for the methane geological source were widely considered too high by atmospheric modelers such as myself.”

  • Yes, but: Jacob told the Post that he disagreed with the study's inference that smaller fossil methane sources means that humans should increase emissions from another source.

Go deeper: New methane capture method could reduce global warming by one-sixth

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UBS adds new fossil fuel lending restrictions

Photo: Peter Klaunzer/AFP via Getty Images

UBS said Thursday it will not finance new Arctic offshore oil projects, new coal mines or new oil sands projects.

The big picture: The Swiss banking giant is the latest in a string of banks to announce wider restrictions on fossil fuel finance as investor and activist pressure grows.

Industry officials offer mixed messages on climate policy

A top business trade association official and the CEO of a major pipeline company said Tuesday they want the federal government to do more on climate change — but they’re not actually backing any such plans.

Driving the news: Marty Durbin, a top official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Williams Company CEO Alan Armstrong, speaking at a Bipartisan Policy Center event Tuesday, both said they think the government should create an economy-wide policy to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Pollution levels fall in Italy in the wake of coronavirus outbreak

Photo: Andrea Ronchini/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution fell drastically in parts of Italy — a direct result of the country closing borders and businesses to mitigate the novel coronavirus outbreak, The Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: The drop in saturation of greenhouse gases in Italy shows the impact humans have on the environment, and how quickly emissions can plummet when people reduce the burning of fossil fuels, the Post writes. Nitrogen dioxide is not the primary greenhouse gas linked to climate change, but serves as a proxy for other emissions.