For all the attention carbon dioxide gets in the conversation about climate change, methane is up to 100 times more powerful a greenhouse gas. And the reason has a lot to do with how it absorbs sunlight. Photo: Vincent Van Dam via Flickr
Reid FrazierJuly 8, 2016
This story was originally published on November 30, 2012 and updated on June 7, 2013.
Methane comes from a lot of things, not just a gas well. It bubbles up out of swamps, landfills and rice paddies. Believe it or not, cows are also a major source of methane.
So why is methane such a big deal? According to a recent study, methane is up to 100 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. And to explain why, we have to begin not on earth, but in space.
All energy on earth comes from the sun, mainly in the form of light.
“Light is energy,” says Neil Donahue, an atmospheric chemist at Carnegie Mellon University. “The sun gives off about 400 watts—four 100-watt light bulbs—per square meter of surface area.”