Marine environmental activists are leading the charge against methane, for reasons that are not yet clear: a marine biologist became famous for claiming natural gas was worse for the environment than CO2, and though his findings have long since been debunked, it continues to be a story for environmental fundraisers. Now a paper published in Limnology and Oceanography Letters lends its voice, stating that that lake size and nutrients drive how greenhouse gases are emitted globally from lakes into the atmosphere.
It all sounds perfect for getting an article in the New York Times by Eric Lipton or Danny Hakim, but there is a problem if they read the data. The biggest culprit is agricultural fertilizer, and the biggest culprit there is manure, not synthetic chemicals.
So organic farming is creating methane?
Yes, green is bad. Excessive fertilization by nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, is called eutrophication. The greener or more eutrophic these water bodies become, the more methane is emitted, which exacerbates climate warming. So do less organic farming, which requires far more chemical stressors, if you really care. Otherwise, the methane emissions due to organic farming could offset all of the CO2 savings due to natural gas and optimized industrial processes.
They say the improved data are due to advances in satellite and sensor technology, availability of detailed geographical data on lakes, an increasing number of global lake observations and improved statistical survey designs. Of course, that throws into doubt claims about the ecology of the past. If they aren't considered accurate, why make policy based on "changes" from the past?
Citation: Tonya DelSontro, Jake J. Beaulieu, John A. Downing, 'Greenhouse gas emissions from lakes and impoundments: Upscaling in the face of global change', Limnology and Oceanography Letters 26 March 2018 https://doi.org/10.1002/lol2.10073