While the series of gas leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines have finally stopped, the multiple explosions from the past week are estimated to have caused the largest single emission of methane in history, NPR reports
Approximately half a million metric tons of methane — five times larger than the last largest spill in Aliso Canyon in California in 2015 — was released across three leaks, per NPR.
European leaders have decried the pipeline leaks as sabotage, but have been unable to pinpoint a direct offender. Russian President Vladimir Putin has directly accused the west of sabotaging the pipelines, an allegation the U.S. and its international allies have firmly denied, NPR continues.
Methane is the main component of natural gas, which is transported through the pipelines. It can trap heat 80 times better than carbon dioxide, and doesn't last as long in the atmosphere; that said, its potency yields substantial immediate effects on climate change and global warming.
Though the leak was large, it was only equivalent to approximately a day or two of fossil fuel industry emissions. Methane has caused 30 percent of the global warming witnessed to date, according to the International Energy Agency, underscoring the larger issue of fossil fuel pollution.
Manfredi Caltagirone, head of the International Methane Emissions Observatory, remarked, "It is important to put it in context of a larger problem that we have, that we need to fix."