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Population and Environment

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 109–137 | Cite as

The greenhouse gas methane (CH4): Sources and sinks, the impact of population growth, possible interventions

  • Gerhard K. Heilig
Article

Abstract

Methane (CH4) is one of the trace gases in the atmosphere that is considered to play a major role in what is called the “greenhouse effect.” There are six major sources of atmospheric methane: emission from anaerobic decomposition in (1) natural wetlands; (2) paddy rice fields; (3) emission from livestock production systems (including intrinsic fermentation and animal waste); (4) biomass burning (including forest fires, charcoal combustion, and firewood burning); (5) anaerobic decomposition of organic waste in landfills; and (6) fossil methane emission during the exploration and transport of fossil fuels. Obviously, human activities play a major role in increasing methane emissions from most of these sources. Especially the worldwide expansion of paddy rice cultivation, livestock production and fossil fuel exploration have increased the methane concentration in the atmosphere. Several data sets help estimate atmospheric methane concentration up to 160,000 years back. Major sources and sinks of present-day methane emission and their relative contribution to the global methane balance demonstrate great uncertainties in the identification and quantification of individual sources and sinks. Most recent methane projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for 2025 and 2100 are discussed and used to estimate the contribution of population growth to future methane emission. Finally the paper discusses options and restrictions of reducing anthropogenic methane emissions to the atmosphere.

Keywords

Methane Emission Paddy Rice Methane Concentration Paddy Rice Field Atmospheric Methane 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerhard K. Heilig
    • 1
  1. 1.International Institute for Applied Systems AnalysisAustria

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