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[review] Why it is better to reduce methane than CO2?




The report from the UN Environment Programme is the basis for the article I wrote at the weekend in New Scientist about the increase in methane gas in 2020. The Stockholm Environment Institute, where I have been a fellow for many years, is also involved in this project.


This article describes the original report in more detail. Why should we focus on reducing methane gas to limit global warming? Carbon dioxide is the most well-known greenhouse gas. The second most important greenhouse gas is methane. Methane gas has been responsible for around 30% of global warming since the industrial revolution. This methane leakage includes 23% from oil and gas extraction, 12% from coal mining, 20% from sewage, 32% from agriculture, including livestock, and 8% from paddy fields. As you can see, there are many vital areas where we can reduce methane, and there are economic benefits to be gained by doing so.


The methane gas from sewage and livestock can be captured as biogas and turned into energy. The use of methane gas without releasing it into the air is economically beneficial as its consumption eliminates the need to purchase fossil fuels and other energy sources. Burning methane gas produces carbon dioxide, which is between 20 and 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide, depending on how you calculate it. Even if burning methane gas releases carbon dioxide into the air, the same volume of methane gas has a lower greenhouse effect. The use of methane gas as an energy source can lead to scenarios to reduce fossil fuels.


Similarly, 35% of the methane gas from fossil fuel extraction is also not released into the air, and there are economic benefits to capturing it.


Reducing carbon dioxide emissions is generally an economical cost, but keeping this gas out of the air is a financial benefit in methane. Therefore, it may be easier to reduce methane emissions. There are also other social benefits to extracting methane gas from agriculture, such as providing clean energy to rural areas where clean energy is not available. For example, a report by the Gold Standard, which certifies emissions trading, says that biogas projects have three times the social benefits of planting forests, a similar greenhouse gas control measure.


I hope that the above will make everyone pay more attention to reducing methane and carbon dioxide.





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