Atmospheric methane and nitrous oxide: challenges along the path to Net Zero

The causes of methane's renewed rise since 2007, accelerated growth from 2014 and record rise in 2020, concurrent with an isotopic shift to values more depleted in 13C, remain poorly understood. This rise is the dominant departure from greenhouse gas scenarios that limit global heating to less than 2°C. Thus a comprehensive understanding of methane sources and sinks, their trends and inter-annual variations are becoming more urgent. Efforts to quantify both sources and sinks and understand latitudinal and seasonal variations will improve our understanding of the methane cycle and its anthropogenic component. Nationally declared emissions inventories under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and promised contributions to emissions reductions under the UNFCCC Paris Agreement need to be verified independently by top-down observation. Furthermore, indirect effects on natural emissions, such as changes in aquatic ecosystems, also need to be quantified. Nitrous oxide is even more poorly understood. Despite this, options for mitigating methane and nitrous oxide emissions are improving rapidly, both in cutting emissions from gas, oil and coal extraction and use, and also from agricultural and waste sources. Reductions in methane and nitrous oxide emission are arguably among the most attractive immediate options for climate action. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue 'Rising methane: is warming feeding warming? (part 1)'.


Publication status:
Authors: Nisbet, Euan G., Dlugokencky, Edward J., Fisher, Rebecca E., France, James L. ORCIDORCID record for James L. France, Lowry, David, Manning, Martin R., Michel, Sylvia E., Warwick, Nicola J.

On this site: James France
15 November, 2021
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, A / 379
Link to published article: