For Immediate Release, May 6, 2021

Contact:

Shaye Wolf, (415) 385-5746, swolf@biologicaldiversity.org
Stephanie Feldstein, (734) 395-0770, sfeldstein@biologicaldiversity.org
Robert Ukeiley, (720) 496-8568, rukeiley@biologicaldiversity.org

UN Report: Methane Cuts Are Critical to Confronting Climate Emergency

Global Study Finds Methane Reductions More Vital Than Previously Thought

WASHINGTON— Slashing emissions from methane, including from the fossil fuel industry, is far more critical than previously thought to avoid the worst effects of climate change, according to a United Nations report released today.

The global methane assessment, compiled by international scientists, finds that drastic cuts to emissions of the superpollutant are needed to address the climate emergency in the short term.

The report follows studies showing that the oil and gas industry is leaking far more methane than previously thought and is likely a major driver of the recent increase in global atmospheric methane. It identifies the fossil fuel industry as having the greatest potential to reduce methane emissions at little to no cost.

“Using affordable solutions that already exist to cut fossil fuel methane leakage is long overdue,” said Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But it’s critical that cutting that leakage isn’t manipulated into greenwashing and regulatory loopholes that enable more oil and gas production. Averting climate catastrophe requires a rapid drawdown of fossil fuel production and use, with methane reductions as a jumpstart.”

While methane is an especially potent climate pollutant that heats the atmosphere 87 times more than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, it is comparatively short-lived. Because of this intensity, cutting methane can have a more immediate effect in slowing the rate of warming than cuts to carbon dioxide.

The report finds that concentrated reductions from the fossil fuel, waste and agriculture sectors could cut methane emissions as much as 45% by 2030, helping to avoid 0.3 degrees Celsius of warming by 2040.

Agriculture accounts for 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Along with the oil and gas industry, domestic livestock animals and their manure are the leading sources of U.S. methane emissions; since 1990 methane emissions from manure alone have risen 68%.

“Methane from meat and dairy production has been ignored for far too long even though it’s a leading source of climate pollution,” said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center. “Americans eat three times the global average of meat. We can’t lower methane emissions with unproven half-measures that cater to the ag industry. We have to reduce meat consumption and production if we’re going to effectively address agricultural methane.”

The U.N. report also underscores how methane cuts could improve public health. Methane is a precursor to ozone, which is known to increase hospitalizations and early deaths from asthma and other conditions.

“If the Biden administration wants to reduce methane emissions, we’ve given the EPA the tools they need on a silver platter,” said Robert Ukeiley, an attorney with the Center’s Environmental Health program. “These include our petition to regulate methane as a smog precursor and our request for the agency to update its requirements for emissions reductions from oil and methane gas wells and transmission.”

The report warns that with no action to curb methane emissions, the superpollutant will help propel the world toward irreversible climate catastrophe.

“Cutting methane emissions, particularly from the fossil fuel industry, is one of the most accessible and potent tools we have to address the climate crisis with the urgency required,” said Wolf. “This superpollutant represents a huge opportunity if we address it and a grave threat if we keep ignoring it.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.