how does methane affect climate change

Methane is a major concern in tackling global climate change and people ask: how does methane affect climate change? This stuff not only warms up the planet but also leaks into the atmosphere in powerful quantities. 

A lot of people are concerned about methane – how it affects our climate, and how we can solve this problem.

Methane does not have any direct effect on climate change other than being a greenhouse gas that traps heat in Earth’s atmosphere and changes the air’s chemistry. 

Since methane has a high biogenic source, there is no direct cause of global warming caused by the release of methane.

Read along to get a bit more informed on how does methane gas affect climate change.

Why Do We Care About Methane’s Impact On Climate Change?

methane's impact on climate

Methane is a greenhouse gas that’s 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. 

It traps heat at a rate 20 times faster than CO2 does.

It’s also a highly potent greenhouse gas, which means that it can trap heat for much longer periods of time, meaning that it’s even more damaging to the climate.

Methane is emitted by natural processes and human activity like burning fossil fuels, landfills, and livestock operations. 

In fact, when methane is released into the atmosphere it has a far greater warming potential than CO2 (measured over 100 years). 

effects of climate change

This is because methane stays in the atmosphere for only about 12 to 15 years before it breaks down into CO2 again. 

Then it breaks down into CO2 again after another 12-15 years!

So why should we care? Because methane and other greenhouse gases are responsible for an estimated 3% of all man-made greenhouse gases. 

If we want to keep global warming under control, we need to reduce emissions from all sources.

Note: Methane is produced by methanogenic bacteria and then converted to carbon dioxide.

Does Methane Cause Climate Change?

Methane is a greenhouse gas, which means it absorbs heat and may contribute to climate change. 

Methane is also a potent greenhouse gas, so it can have an impact on more than just climate change. 

Methane is thought to be responsible for up to 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions each year.

Does methane cause climate change? That answer depends on who you ask. 

methane cause climate change

Scientists generally agree that there’s a positive feedback loop between methane emissions and the release of other greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2). 

This means that when you put more methane into the atmosphere, it causes more CO2 to be released. 

And this in turn causes more warming because of the increase in CO2 levels. 

But some scientists disagree with this conclusion, saying that methane doesn’t cause as much warming as CO2 does on its own.

Their claim is majorly on the basis that CO2 has a longer lifetime in the atmosphere than methane. 

So even if you used all of your existing methane as fuel for cars today, you would still need to replace it with some other source over time.

Why Is Methane A Concern For Climate Change?

Methane is a greenhouse gas, and it’s a much more potent contributor to climate change than carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas produced by human activities (like cars and power plants). 

carbon dioxide

You exhale about 100 pounds of it every year (that’s about 30% of your lifetime emissions!)

Methane comes from natural sources like rotting vegetation or animals, but it’s also produced when organic matter breaks down in anaerobic conditions

When this happens, the methane is released into the atmosphere where it traps heat as carbon dioxide does. 

The problem with methane is that it stays in the atmosphere for a much longer time than carbon dioxide does—about 17 times longer! 

This means that even if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide tomorrow, we’d still see temperatures rise by at least 5 degrees Celsius in as little as one hundred years.

So what can we do? 

We can help reduce our methane emissions by making sure our food doesn’t become anaerobic and break down too quickly. 

Tip: Reducing our consumption of beef and other foods that produce lots of methane can also help reduce the emission of methane.

How Does Methane Affect Climate Change?

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, which means it traps heat in the atmosphere. 

Methane is about 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

And it traps heat so much faster than carbon dioxide.

Methane comes from the decay of organic matter, like the decomposition of dead plant and animal matter. 

The process takes up to thousands of years, but over that period, methane builds up in the atmosphere. 

greenhouse gas

This is why it’s considered a greenhouse gas: it traps heat in the atmosphere and prevents it from escaping back out into space.

Methane also traps heat in other ways. It’s a colorless gas with a sweet smell that gives off light when exposed to oxygen. 

As methane builds up in our atmosphere over time, we can see this light getting brighter and brighter. This is a phenomenon called “methanogenesis.” 

Methanogenesis is what causes Earth’s temperature to rise when we burn fossil fuels like coal or oil (coal burns hotter than oil).

Methane can affect the climate in a number of ways. Those ways are explained below.

As A Potent Greenhouse

First, methane is a potent greenhouse gas, which means that it is able to trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and contribute to the greenhouse effect. 

This can cause the planet to warm, which can lead to a variety of negative consequences, such as more frequent heat waves, more severe storms, and more widespread drought.

By Reacting With Other Gasses

In addition to its role as a greenhouse gas, methane can also affect the climate by reacting with other gases in the atmosphere to form ozone. 

Ozone is another greenhouse gas that can trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. 

The formation of ozone from methane and other gases is known as the ozone-methane connection.

By Impacting On Water Vapor In The Atmosphere

water vapor

Finally, methane can affect the climate by impacting the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. 

Methane is a precursor to water vapor, which means that it helps to create water vapor in the atmosphere. 

Water vapor is itself a greenhouse gas, so an increase in water vapor can contribute to the warming of the planet.

Tip: Methane emissions from human activities have been increasing since pre-industrial times because of an increasing population and changes in agricultural techniques. 

How Much Of A Climate Change Impact Does Methane Have?

If you’ve been following the news, you might have heard about methane’s impact on climate change.

Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas (GHG) in the atmosphere. 

While it doesn’t last as long as carbon dioxide, it does trap heat at a much higher rate than CO2. That is why scientists are so worried about its role in climate change.

But how much of an impact does methane actually have? 

climate change

And what can we do about it? Well, let’s start with what we know.

Methane is 20 times more effective at trapping heat than CO2 over 100 years.

That means that if we were to release just one ton of methane into the atmosphere, it would be like adding 20 tons of CO2 to our atmosphere. 

And that’s not even counting secondary effects like global warming or ocean acidification. 

So what should we do about it?

Well, there are two main approaches.

Either to reduce emissions by eliminating methane sources (like natural gas wells and rice paddies. 

The other option is to reduce emissions by removing CO2 from the air before it gets released into our atmosphere (like through tree planting programs).

Tip: If humans don't stop releasing methane now, we could face some serious consequences later on down the line.

The Pros And Cons

There are pros and cons to both of these approaches. 

If we reduce emissions by eliminating methane sources, then we’ll be able to see the results right away. 

However, it can be difficult to find all of those sources—like natural gas wells —and fix them in time before they release more methane into the atmosphere. 

pros and cons

If we reduce emissions by removing CO2 from the air before it gets released into our atmosphere, then we can see results over time. 

However, this approach is more expensive and may not be as effective at reducing emissions as quickly as other methods. 

But it does help to ensure that we don’t lose any ground when addressing climate change issues in the future.


Methane supports the idea that human activity is changing the earth’s climate. 

It seems as if we are contributing more and more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere each year. 

Before humans, methane would be released naturally by volcanic eruptions, oceans, etc. 

Although this natural process creates a small amount of methane, it does not even come close to the amount of methane that we are adding to the atmosphere today.

Hopefully reading this article answers the question: how does methane affect climate change?