Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Methane flaring on the Pawnee Natural Grassland.  (Photo: WildEarth Guardians/flickr/cc)

Methane-Spewing U.S. Linked to Global Surge in Potent Greenhouse Gas

New study shows U.S. may be responsible for up to '60% of the global growth of atmospheric methane seen in the past decade'

Andrea Germanos

New research has linked the United States to the massive rise in global methane emissions.

Bobby Magill reported on the Harvard University study at Climate Central on Tuesday.

Using satellite data, the researchers found that methane emissions in the country rose over 30% over the 2002–2014 period, and that increase "could account for 30–60% of the global growth of atmospheric methane seen in the past decade," the study's abstract states.

Though the study does not attribute the increase in the U.S. to a particular source, Magill notes that the rise coincided with the fracking boom.

"I'd say the biggest takeaway is that there is more we—the U.S.—could be doing to reduce our methane emissions to combat climate change," study lead author Alex Turner told Climate Central.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that methane, which the IPCC says is 84 times as potent as carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, was responsible for about 10% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in 2013.  But previous studies have also found far higher levels of methane emissions than the agency's estimates, including a 2015 study by Robert Howarth, Cornell’s David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology.

"Methane emissions make it a disastrous idea to consider shale gas as a bridge fuel, letting society continue to use fossil fuels over the next few decades," Howarth said at the time. "Rather, we must move as quickly as possible away from all fossil fuels—shale gas, conventional natural gas, coal and oil—and toward a truly sustainable energy future using 21st-century technologies and wind and solar power."

The new study comes as the Obama administration continues to target methane emissions, with the Interior Department last month unveiling a new proposal to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas from fossil fuel extraction on public lands.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Acidification of Arctic Happening Up to 4 Times Faster Than Other Oceans

The research followed reports that the Arctic is warming nearly four times faster than the Earth as a whole.

Julia Conley ·


Despite Nearly 80% of Voters in Favor, House Dems Stall on Stock Trading Ban

"Existing ethics laws do not go far enough to prevent members of Congress from using the information they have access to for personal gain. No more excuses. No more delays. It's time for action."

Jessica Corbett ·


Analysis Exposes Taxpayer Billions 'Wasted' on Dead-End Carbon Capture Schemes

Food & Water Watch said "this track record should elicit serious concern" as Congress dumps billions more into failed carbon capture technology.

Jake Johnson ·


House Dems Urge Biden to Push for Removal of Climate-Denying World Bank President

"We need a World Bank Group leader who fully appreciates the threat of climate change and the need to accelerate the global transition to a clean just energy future to improve living standards, reduce poverty, and encourage sustainable growth."

Kenny Stancil ·


'Let's Pass Medicare for All,' Says Jayapal as Survey Spotlights Failures of For-Profit System

"When the 'all-time low' of uninsured Americans is still 26 MILLION, something needs to change," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo