Methane is generally considered secondary to carbon dioxide in its importance to climate change, but what role might methane play in the future if global temperatures continue to rise?
The biggest natural emitters of methane are wetlands and lakes, both of which are affected by the impacts of climate change, namely increased temperatures and changing hydrology. The balance between methane production and its oxidation within these environments before it can be released to the atmosphere, both of which are affected by temperature and hydrology, is crucial to understanding the response of these systems to climate change.
While not the largest emitters, permafrost systems (underlain by soils that remain frozen throughout the year due to cold local temperatures) are highly vulnerable to climate change. The proportion of methane emitted from such systems may increase significantly in a warmer future as the previously frozen organic carbon-rich soils are thawed out, making this material available for methane producing microbes.