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UN Report on human-caused methane emissions

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

UN Report on human-caused methane emissions:


Context:

The report, titled Global Methane Assessment: Benefits and Costs of Mitigating Methane Emissions was recently released by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the United Nations Environment Programme.

 

Key findings:

Main Concerns:

  • Human-caused methane emissions are increasing faster currently than at any other time since record keeping began in the 1980s.
  • Carbon dioxide levels have dropped during the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. However, methane in the atmosphere reached record levels last year.
  • This was a cause of concern as methane was an extremely powerful greenhouse gas. It was responsible for about 30 percent of warming since pre-industrial times.

Sources of human-caused methane emissions:

  • Most human-caused methane emissions came from three sectors: Fossil fuels, waste and agriculture.
  • Oil and gas extraction, processing and distribution accounted for 23 per cent of methane emissions in the fossil fuel sector. Coal mining accounted for 12 per cent of emissions.
  • Landfills and wastewater made up about 20 per cent of emissions in the waste sector. In the agricultural sector, livestock emissions from manure and enteric fermentation constituted for roughly 32 per cent and rice cultivation eight per cent of emissions.

Mitigation potential varied between countries and regions:

  • Europe had the greatest potential to curb methane emissions from farming, fossil fuel operations and waste management.
  • India had the greatest potential to reduce methane emissions in the waste sector. China’s mitigation potential was best in coal production and livestock, while Africa’s was in livestock, followed by oil and gas.
  • The fossil fuel industry had the greatest potential for low-cost methane cuts.

Suggestions:

  1. Human-caused methane emissions must be cut by 45 per cent to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
  2. Such a cut would prevent a rise in global warming by up to 0.3 degrees Celsius by 2045.
  3. It would also prevent 260,000 premature deaths, 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits annually, as well as 25 million tonnes of crop losses.

Three behavioural changes — reducing food waste and loss, improving livestock management and adopting healthy diets (vegetarian or with a lower meat and dairy content) — could reduce methane emissions by 65–80 million tonnes per year over the next few decades.

Sources: Down to Earth.