What’s more important, manmade methane sources or natural ones?


Global warming exacerbates methane emissions from all sources, natural and manmade (or anthropogenic). Today, anthropogenic methane emissions are 60% of overall emissions, so they’re greater than natural methane emissions, but all sources matter. 

As public concern about methane grows, most of the focus is on cutting methane emissions from anthropogenic sources, especially the fossil fuel industry.  Some scientists argue that at least half of the global increase in methane is from shale gas development, and that fossil fuels are by far the largest driver overall.  Others believe that the agricultural sector is the largest source of methane emissions.   

Cutting anthropogenic methane emissions is crucial. But since natural sources are responsible for 40% of global methane emissions, they’re also important. And compared to anthropogenic emissions, they are harder to mitigate. 

The background rate of “natural” methane emissions from such sources as swamps, lakes, rising sea levels, and melting permafrost, is accelerating due to climate change and other human causes.  Warming-induced methane emissions, and the question of how much of the growth in methane emissions is due to human activity, are  subjects of active research.

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