Cutting the super-potent greenhouse gas methane quickly and dramatically is the world’s best hope to slow and limit the worst of global warming, a new United Nations report says. If human-caused methane emissions are cut by nearly in half by 2030, a half degree (0.3 degrees Celsius) of warming can be prevented by mid-century, according to Thursday’s report by the United Nations Environment Programme.
The report said the methane reduction would be relatively inexpensive and could be achieved – by plugging leaks in pipelines, stopping venting of natural gas during energy drilling, capturing gas from landfills and reducing methane from belching livestock and other agricultural sources, which is the biggest challenge.
Because methane helps make smog, cutting annual emissions of the gas by 45% or nearly 200 million tons (180 million metric tons) could potentially prevent about 250,000 deaths a year worldwide from pollution-triggered health problems, the UN said.
“It is absolutely critical that we tackle methane and that we tackle it expeditiously,” United Nations Environment Programme Director Inger Andersen said Thursday.
Andersen said without both methane and carbon dioxide reductions the world cannot achieve the goals in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.