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Scientists are baffled by a giant spike in this greenhouse gas — and it’s not CO2

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The unexpected culprit that could throw a wrench in the world’s efforts to stop climate change? Runaway methane levels. Researchers monitoring air samples have noticed an alarming observation: Methane levels are on the rise and no one’s quite sure why.

NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory scientists have been analyzing air samples since 1983. Once a week, metal flasks containing air from around the world at different elevations find their way to the Boulder, Colorado, lab. The scientists look at 55 greenhouse gases, including methane and its more-famous climate villain, CO2.

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You might know methane as the stuff of cow farts, natural gas, and landfills. It’s also an incredibly potent greenhouse gas, absorbing heat 25 times more effectively than CO2. While the rise of carbon dioxide has been stealing the spotlight as of late, methane levels have also been on the incline.

Methane levels, not surprisingly, have been steadily rising since the Industrial Revolution. Things picked up in 1980 and soon after, the NOAA scientists began consistently measuring methane. Levels were high but flattened out by the turn of the millenium. So when levels began to increase at a rapid rate in 2007, and then even faster in 2014, scientists were baffled. No one’s best guesses came close to predicting current methane levels of around 1,867 parts per billion as of 2018. This means studies evaluating the effects of climate change and action plans to address them, like the Paris Climate Agreement, may be based on downplayed climate crisis forecasts.

Methane levels from 1950 to present. 2° Institute

 

So what’s the big deal? Carbon dioxide emissions are relatively well understood and can be tracked to various human activities like transportation and electricity, which means policies can be enacted to target and lower emissions. Pinning down the source of methane, on the other hand, is a little more complicated.

“The really fascinating thing about methane,” Lori Bruhwiler, a NOAA research scientist, told Undark, “is the fact that almost everything we humans do has an effect on the methane budget, from producing food to producing fuel to disposing of waste.”

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As if things weren’t complicated enough, a study published in AGU100 distinguished microbe-produced methane from fossil fuel methane — historically the more abundant one — and found that “natural” methane had taken the lead. This unexpected result might explain the upticks in methane levels that do not seem correlated with human activity. Of course, it could also be any number of human-made causes, including warming temperatures freeing up the gas and more frequent floods amplifying the methane output of wetlands.

Natural methane or not, this finding doesn’t exonerate anyone. The study’s authorsmade that clear in their concluding remarks.

“If the increased methane burden is driven by increased emissions from natural sources,” they wrote, “and if this is a climate feedback—the warming feeding the warming—then there is urgency to reduce anthropogenic emissions, which we can control.”

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Curbing methane could be a powerful tool in our upcoming climate fight. Since the greenhouse gas is relatively short lived, only around 12 years, versus the 20 to 200 years of CO2, and is more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, addressing methane emissions could be effective as a short-term climate remediation tool. The first step? Bringing more attention to methane so we can figure out where it comes from and nip it in the bud.

By Leta Dickinson, Grist

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Trump is already making up conspiracy theories about voter fraud — and it’ll only get worse

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The election is eight months away, but President Donald Trump is already crying foul.

Bloomberg News wrote Sunday that Trump is already working to undermine the American electoral process by attacking the Democratic presidential primary.

"Indeed, his campaign, with the full support of the Republican Party, is already waging a vigorous crusade to destroy his opposition. No, it's not Joe Biden, who inspired Trump's shakedown of Ukraine. Trump's gunning for bigger game: democracy itself," wrote Francis Wilkinson for Bloomberg.

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READ IT: More than 1,100 former US Department of Justice officials tell Bill Barr to resign now

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More than 1,100 former US Department of Justice officials called on Attorney General William P. Barr on Sunday to step down after he intervened last week to lower the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for President Trump’s longtime friend and political crony Roger J. Stone Jr.

“It is unheard of for the Department’s top leaders to overrule line prosecutors, who are following established policies, in order to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the President, as Attorney General Barr did in the Stone case,” wrote the former Justice Department attorneys in their Sunday letter. “It is even more outrageous for the Attorney General to intervene as he did here — after the President publicly condemned the sentencing recommendation that line prosecutors had already filed in court.”

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Trump campaign forced to delete #Daytona500 Air Force One photo because it was from 15 years ago

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Air Force One in flight.

Another oops moment happened for President Donald Trump's campaign manager stole George W. Bush's photo from the Daytona 500 in 2004.

Tweeting Sunday, Brad Parscale proclaimed, "[email protected] won the #Daytona500 before the race even started."

Except, it wasn't him. As many people pointed out, the image was from 16 years ago by photographer Jonathan Ferrey, CNN reported. Parscale was forced to delete it and tweet it out again with an underwhelming photo.

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