The Methane Big Lie

Climate alarmists maintain many big lies, but none bigger than their claims about CH4 (methane.)  With each successive UN IPCC report, they bump up the “Global Warming Potential” of methane.  In 1995, it was 21 times stronger than CO2.  In 2007, it was 25 times stronger than CO2, and in 2014, it was up to 28 times stronger than CO2.


Also note the absence of H2O in the table above.

It is easy enough to test these claims out using their own models.  The graph below was generated using the RRTM-LW model from AER, with their standard mid-latitude summer atmosphere parameters as input.  This is the model used by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in their weather and climate models. The Y-axis shows the amount of downwelling longwave radiation (i.e. greenhouse effect) produced by different levels of greenhouse gases in the mid-latitude summer lower troposphere (952 mb.)  The X-axis is logarithmic, with four values plotted for each gas.

  1. 0% of current levels
  2. 10% of current levels
  3. 100% of current levels
  4. 1000% of current levels

Each of the three curves assumes constant (current) values for the other two gases.

Water vapor (H2O) is far and away the dominant greenhouse gas.  With no water vapor, the amount of DLWR would be less than one third of its current value.

CO2 is significant, but much smaller than H2O.  CH4 (methane) is nearly inconsequential. If you reduce methane by 10X or increase it by 10X, the change in DLWR (downwelling longwave radiation) is small. Claims that CH4 is 28X stronger than H2O are complete nonsense and have no basis in science.

It is easy to see why methane is inconsequential in the spectral diagram below. Methane only has three small peaks, compared with the much larger and broader peaks of H2O and CO2.  A good way to estimate greenhouse gas potential is to measure the area under the curve for each gas.  The area under the methane curve is quite small compared to the areas under the H2O and CO2 curves.

File:Atmospheric Transmission.png – Wikimedia Commons

But methane has another problem, its peaks line up with H2O peaks, so those spectral bands are nearly saturated.

It is also impossible to build up large amounts of methane in an atmosphere which contains oxygen, because it quickly oxidizes in the presence of oxygen into H2O and CO2. That is why we use it for a fuel. The concentration of methane during mid-latitude summer is a tiny 1.7 PPM, but planets (including Earth) emit a lot of methane.  Saturn’s moon Titan has methane seas. The reason Titan is able to hold its methane is because it has almost no oxygen.

Cassini Explores a Methane Sea on Titan | NASA

Earth is nothing like Titan, because we have oxygen. The global warming potential of methane on Earth is thus very small, and is nearly inconsequential compared to water vapor.  So why is the IPCC lying about methane?  The reason is very simple. They are attempting to restrict meat production by blaming methane emissions on livestock, and scaring people into thinking their cheeseburger will cause hurricanes and rising seas.

I don’t eat red meat, and very little of any other kind of meat.  There are lots of good reasons to cut way back on meat consumption, but imaginary global warming is not one of them.

So why do we have oxygen on Earth?  Because we have plants, which depend on CO2 to grow and generate oxygen.

Photosynthesis – Photosynthesis – Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

By demonizing “carbon gases” CO2 and CH4, climate alarmists are demonizing life itself.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

– Joseph Goebbels

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33 Responses to The Methane Big Lie

  1. Colin Bain says:

    The other big lie is that cattle are producing SOO much methane as if this was greater than in the past. Given that less than 200 years ago, buffalo were roaming in huge numbers on the plains of North America, this is surely simply balanced out. Given also that the presence of humans has reduced animal numbers, then I speculate that methane may have actually reduced over the years.

  2. steve case says:

    Reduced down to simple terms:

    If methane increases by ~7 ppb every year, it will run temperatures up 28 times what an annual increase of ~7 ppb of CO2 would produce. Which is essentially nothing.

    That’s fairly easy to see when you write out the numbers with all the zeroes. If CO2 were to increase by 7 ppb it would go from 400 ppm to 400.007 ppm. Those two zeroes to the right of the decimal point are place holders which makes the 7 in that 3rd place insignificant.

    Besides all that, if you do a search on the web trying to find out how much methane will run-up global temperatures by say 2100. You will NOT find it. Go ahead try it. The people running the Climate Change show studiously avoid providing that necessary information. Well really, how can policy makers write sensible regulations if they don’t know how much temperature rise methane will actually cause?

    There’s more, The IPCC usually says methane is about 77 to 86 times stronger than CO2, and they arrive at that by comparing methane & CO2 by mass instead of volume. CO2 is 2.75 times as heavy as methane. So the IPCC gets a nice little multiplier to their Global Warming Potential (GWP) number, and then thee get to 86 with the feedbacks.

    But there’s still more. The IPCC uses CO2 as the standard for their GWP numbers. And since CO2 increases every year the GWP increases too. Did you ever hear of any sort of measuring system that uses a standard that constantly changes?

    Somewhere there’s a little creep who came up with this nonsense and he must be laughing himself sick watching the whole scientific world swallow this bullshit hook line & sinker.

    Hey Tony, thanks for addressing the methane hobgoblin. Along with sea level, it’s one of my favorite whipping boys.

  3. Colorado Wellington says:

    Linear projection shows that methane will be about 60 times stronger than CO2 by the end of the century.

    No hockey stick. I like steady and reliable.

    • steve case says:

      Colorado Wellington says:
      January 30, 2019 at 6:18 am
      Linear projection shows that methane will be about 60 times stronger than CO2 by the end of the century.

      No hockey stick. I like steady and reliable.

      Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

      That was great, now why didn’t I think of doing that?

    • tonyheller says:

      Thanks for this idea. I am using it in my new video.

      • steve case says:

        Looks like I’m in the same boat with you. Yup, saw in your YouTube (-:

        Sea level is the biggest scare the Climate cult has. Methane just doesn’t have the Oomph that eroding million dollar shorelines have. But they are going to get as much mileage out of the GWP numbers as possible.

        These people have to know that the GWP number is total bullshit and so I really am mystified as to how their minds work. Bank robbers come up with clever ways to steal money and apparently don’t have a conscience. I can only conclude that “Climate Scientists” don’t either.

  4. Gator says:

    Literally a fart in a windstorm.

  5. Squidly says:

    Makes no difference how much “down welling IR” there is .. the surface cannot heat itself .. holy crap .. really? .. I have to point this out?

    There is no such thing as a “greenhouse effect” and there is no such thing as a “greenhouse gas”

    • tonyheller says:

      You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but I have been explaining this for years – as you know.

    • Johansen says:

      Squidly what the heck are you talking about…. Could you expand on this a bit? Cloud cover doesn’t cause warmth? Just wondering what you’re saying… thanks

      • Martha Farquar says:

        That is correct, cloud cover does not cause warmth. It stops it leaking out into space.
        Cloud cover shields us from the extremely cold vacuum of space.
        Everything that is warmer than MINUS 273 degrees Celsius radiates infra-red heat, including the earth.
        We get heat from the sun (Hooray!), it warms the surface of the ocean with thermal potential energy, then water evaporates and makes clouds, thereby changing the state of energy to gravitational potential energy. the rain then falls, and makes a noise like “ploop” thereby changing the gravitational potential energy into sound waves, which then shakes our eardum (changes to a state of motive force) and drives a mechanism which changes the energy state to an electrical state as signals sent to our brain.
        I hope this helps, M.

    • Alan says:

      The greenhouse effect is very simple to experience first hand. Two adjacent similar nights, except – one cloudy, one not – which one is warmer? The water vapor in the clouds provides the “greenhouse effect” of reducing the outgoing radiation, making it warmer. CO2 is negligible.

  6. arn says:

    Hundreds of millions of years of farting dinosaurs and other animals-
    but all of a sudden it is a threat to climate?
    Maybe methan made dinosaurs go extinct.
    Too much farting caused so much methan inside the atmosphere so that everything blew up when a brontosaurus tried to light a cigarette after dinner.

    Or maybe just a try to make CH4 the new CO2.
    To make it more prominent as 2 lethal threats are twice as apocalyptic than a single one.
    +it makes AGW science look so much more competent and complicated when they have two different things to blame instead of one.

    Considering that CH4 has all parameters climate science needs(=man made=perfect for indoctrinating people with guilt)
    one can expect CH4 to become much more famous and evil in the next few yeary.

  7. Eduardo Ferreyra says:

    If increasing Co2 levels can cause a runaway (and irreversible) warming of the atmsophere, why it did’t happened when Earth’s CO2 leves during the permian were betwee 2000 and 7000 ppmv? Does warmistas have an explanation?

    • Johansen says:

      Yeah, their “explanation” is to post the title from a “peer reviewed” paper which questions the 20X premise. And they expect you to drop everything and read it (and then apologize)

    • Phil. says:

      CO2 levels in the Permian increased towards the end of the era but not apparently as high you say, it was accompanied by a mass extinction though, 95% of marine species, 70% of land species. Of course the land/ocean geography was also vastly different as the supercontinent, Pangaea, was emerging.

  8. Jason Calley says:

    The main thing that mystifies me about CAGW and its enthusiasts is why they go to so much trouble to sound as if they understand or even care about science. When will they just drop all pretense of reason and logic, and go straight to the pitchforks and witch burning?

  9. Svend Ferdinandsen says:

    First of all GWP compares weight and not volume. It gives a factor of 44/16 ~3 times.
    If you calculate the forcing from doubling of methane like you do for CO2, then it will be around a tenth of the value for CO2.
    Furthermore methane is only 2ppm and the forcing from a doubling will decrease with higher levels as it does for CO2.
    Its all about how you do the calculations.

  10. Organic Fool says:

    I’m for regenerative agriculture. I support local, pasture-raised meats and milk.

    Allan Savory shows how domestic animals can regenerate land and repair soils.

    This can also help reduce the dependence on the industrial food system. It’s also healthier nutritionally when the soils are richer.

    Crops actually do a lot of destruction in themselves and kill many other animals with plowing, while also depleting the soil of nutrients.


  11. Thomas Rousseau says:

    Hi Tony, do you have any link to an explanation how the IPCC people actually come up with the GWP numbers for methane. Is it calculated or is it measured in some way?
    Looking at the spectrum where methane is heated by the earth’s IR radiation I can’t understand how it can be 30 times stronger??

  12. Brian Cann says:

    Re The Big Methane Lie
    Hi Tony your doing a great job. I have a background working in government with the oil and gas industry. I suspect that other reasons for hyping methane as a greenhouse bogyman, along side the anti-red meat agenda, is the anti-fossil fuel crowd who want to curtail oil and gas production by making it harder and harder to permit and produce via going hard on fugitive methane emissions. Also it helps to stigmatise gas fired power for those who are promoting renewables. Keep up the good work.

  13. David Nelson says:

    From the Australian Academy of Science Methane is now 30x more potent than CO2. If you scroll down to their graph, it is intentionally misleading by plotting CO2 in ppmillion and CH4 in ppbillion.
    Additionally they list the sources for atmospheric methane as:
    Wetlands, swamps, marshes = 70%
    Oceans = 2%
    Termites = 5%
    Rice Paddies (different from marshes) = 10%
    Livestock = 28%
    and Human Activity (not listed but given in millions of tonnes compared to all else, so it can be calculated) = 320 mt/570 mt = 56%
    Giving a GRAND TOTAL of 171%

    Please check my math, but that result tells it all to me.

    • Richard says:

      the livestock at 28% is for anthropogenic emissions and not total emissions. The confusion seems deliberate. Often represented by a pie chart labeled ‘methane emissions’ and not acuratley labeled. As a total 14-17 % is a common range. look at images for methane emissions and you’ll see this is a common practice.

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