The rising levels of methane in the Earth’s atmosphere from agricultural sources has prompted scientists to sound an alarm because of the gas’ greenhouse effect, The Washington Post reported on Sunday. In an analysis published in the Environmental Research Letters, a group of researchers said that there had been a spike in the concentration of methane in the atmosphere in the past two years.

While methane concentrations rose at a level of only 0.5 parts per billion in the early 2000s, they surged to 12.5 parts per billion in 2014 and 9.9 parts per billion in 2015, the analysis said. Earth scientist Rob Jackson, who co-authored the piece, said the gas was “starting to approach the most greenhouse gas-intensive scenarios”. “That’s bad news. We’re going in the wrong direction,” he said.

Noting that while carbon dioxide still remains the dominant cause of global warming, Jackson said the surge in the levels of methane in recent years risked “offsetting the gains we might make in bringing down levels of carbon dioxide”, BBC reported. “Methane has many sources, but the culprit behind the steep rise is probably agriculture,” he said, adding that probable changes in the chemical reactions which remove methane from the atmosphere were also contributing to the rise in the levels of the gas.

Methane traps 28 times more heat than carbon dioxide, leading to a sharper temperature increases in the short term, Reuters reported. The paper has called on the scientific community to address the gap in public knowledge about the gas.