The world must pay attention to methane emissions in order to combat climate change
The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) was held in Glasgow last November with the hope that the world would come together to address the challenge of climate change.
The conference was dominated by carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and their effects on the environment. Methane, another major source of pollution that contributes to the environmental pollution, was not given enough attention.
While the climate change threat posed by CO2 emissions dominates news headlines, methane — the planet’s second most abundant greenhouse gas — has largely slipped under the radar.
Many people are unaware that methane emissions are the second leading cause of global warming.
Over the first 20 years, methane has more warming power than CO2; although CO2 has longer-lasting effects and is more potent, methane sets the pace of warming in the near future. At least 25 percent of today’s warming is driven by methane from human actions.
Methane is less well-known than CO2 but it is crucial to reduce methane emissions in order to avoid the worst effects of climate changes. “Cutting methane is the biggest opportunity to slow warming between now and 2040,” Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development and a lead reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said recently. “We need to face this emergency.”
In order to address this issue, the world will need to understand more about this gas, where it comes from, and what can be done about it.
Many of the emissions are from agriculture-related activities like fertilizer management, fermentation, and rice cultivation.
The atmosphere also contains methane from fossil fuels, especially coal. Methane is emitted from abandoned and active mines, as well as from undeveloped coal veins. Methane is also released throughout other stages of oil and gas production, and from electricity and heat generation.
A lack of reliable data on its sources is one reason the fight has been held back. Several initiatives have been launched over the years to address this issue.
In 2019 the International Energy Agency in Paris launched a methane tracker to focus on emissions from oil and gas operations — deemed the area with the most cost-effective potential for reducing emissions.
The International Energy Forum, Riyadh, established the IEF Methane Initiative in 2021. It uses satellites to measure methane emissions and collect standard data.
These are all steps in the right direction to increase transparency and cut emissions, which will have a big impact in the short-term, buying the planet valuable time to meet climate targets by the middle of the century.
Research and development standards for controlling fossil and landfill methane emission, as well as incentives to address agricultural methane, are just a few of the low-hanging fruit that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Composting is one of the best ways to reduce methane from organic waste. Any improvement in agriculture will be beneficial, considering that 36% of global methane emissions are from agriculture.
The world will continue to phase out harmful CFC chemicals, which deplete the ozone, commonly used in foam insulation and refrigerants. Replacing old oil and gas infrastructure could help prevent methane from leaking into the atmosphere.
The EU, which imports most its gas from Russia or North Africa can also establish procedures for cleaning up the imports and enforcing measures that better manage, monitor, regulate and regulate methane emission.
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition and UN Environment Programme released a recent assessment report that shows human-caused methane can be reduced by as much as 45 percent in the next decade.
Such reductions would avoid nearly 0.3 C of global warming by 2045, and keep the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal to limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5 C within reach.
Human-caused methane omissions are rising faster than ever since records began in 1980s. Despite the COVID-19-induced economic slowdown that occurred in 2020, which prevented yet another record year for CO2 emission, methane in atmosphere hit record levels, according the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The strongest lever the world has for reducing climate change in the next 25 years is cutting methane. The benefits to society and the environment, as well as the economies and the environment, are many and far more important than the cost.
If the world is serious about combating climate change, it will have to pay close attention. International cooperation is essential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade and to give the world enough time to address other climate change challenges.
- Fuad Al-Zayer, an independent energy consultant, is Fuad Al Zayer. He is the former head of data services at OPEC and a former head of the JODI Global Initiative at the IEF. He is located in Alkhobar, Saudi Arabia.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this section are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point of view.