As the P5 Sentinel Satellite floated overhead, no one could see the clouds of methane from below – but the satellite could. We can no longer claim that we cannot see this potent greenhouse gas anymore.

But seeing it is not enough. We need to prevent methane emissions. Methane is a gas made from a carbon atom bonded to four hydrogens (CH4). It's produced by archaean bacteria in the absence of oxygen as part of their metabolism.

Bacteria in cow stomachs produce it, and bacteria in buried organic waste also produce it.

Natural gas is a fossil fuel resulting from decomposing, buried organic materials.

In the complicated accounting of climate change, if atmospheric carbon dioxide stocks are the mortgage on our home, methane is credit card debt. It's short term and supercharged with 84-87 times the warming potential of the same weight of CO2 over a 20-year time horizon.

Even over 100 years, it's 23 times worse. In 2014, the IPCC estimated that 16% of our total emissions come from methane using the 100-year time horizon "global warming potential".

A version of this article appears in the print on November 1, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.