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Burning natural gas produces CO$_{2}$, a gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect. However, natural gas itself is a greenhouse gas, and its primary constituent, CH$_{4}$, has a GWP100 of about 30. Comparatively, CO$_{2}$'s GWP100 is 1.

Furthermore, there are increasingly many predictions of trapped methane escaping into the atmosphere in the near future, feeding a positive-feedback loop of GHG emissions caused by glacial melting. With all of this in mind, in order to reduce the overall impact of greenhouse gases, if natural gas were to escape into the atmosphere, should it be burned to reduce its GWP100, or should it be allowed to escape as it is?

(This is not about natural gas intentionally extracted for burning as fuel.)

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  • $\begingroup$ As is, the question looks opinion-based (isn't it a good thing?). The real question is whether extracting and burning the natural gas contributes more to the greenhosue effect than the methane naturally escaping to the atmosphere. But then I am not sure whether this question really belongs to physics (rather than, e.g., geology or environmental science). $\endgroup$
    – Roger V.
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 7:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Vadim thanks for the feedback! I changed the question to not be opinion-based. If the question gets closed/others find it off-topic, I'll migrate it to a different Stack Exchange site. $\endgroup$
    – ayane_m
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 7:50

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Keep in mind that most methane and other gases are extracted from underground deposits, meaning they are not directly in the air. The problem is that $CO_2$ is a byproduct of so many chemical reactions that we have a huge surplus of it. Think about cars burning fuel, livestock, and heaters burning wood. They all produce $CO_2$ in high amounts and thus have a greater effect on the atmosphere than these underground oil and gas deposits. If it were true that the gases could cause leakage then it is definitely better to burn some, as it is better to burn some than to have a huge amount escape into the atmosphere.

I hope this answers your question!

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  • $\begingroup$ "If it were true that the gases could cause leakage then it is definitely better to burn some, as it is better to burn some than to have a huge amount escape into the atmosphere." answers my question. I wonder, though, how securely are our natural gas deposits locked inside? $\endgroup$
    – ayane_m
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 10:45
  • $\begingroup$ @PM2Ring Thanks for catching that mistake! I've edited it. $\endgroup$
    – Pim Laeven
    Commented Mar 31, 2021 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ The problem is, the methane released by thawing permafrost (or livestock) cannot be captured and burned. $\endgroup$
    – R.W. Bird
    Commented Mar 31, 2021 at 14:23

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