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UMD Analysis: Rapid Methane Emissions Cuts Needed to Slow Climate Change

30% Reduction Would Limit Global Temperature Rise in Coming Decades

By Center for Global Sustainability Staff

Photo collage of smokestacks

Methane emissions must be reduced over the 12 years to reduce climate risk, says new analysis from the Center for Global Sustainability.

Composite photo by iStock

Reducing methane emissions over the next 12 years—particularly from oil and gas—is the most quickly deployable mitigation strategy available to reduce climate risk, a new analysis from the Center for Global Sustainability (CGS) at the University of Maryland reveals.

Released before Thursday's start of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, the analysis supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies demonstrates that methane can make up nearly half of the needed emissions progress until 2030. However, if governments fail to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030, then the world will reach a 1.5°C increase sooner than it would otherwise, experience a more prolonged period above that threshold, and increase the risk of tipping point disruptions of sea level rise or oceanic temperatures.

Unlike CO₂ emissions that linger for centuries, methane's 10-year lifespan means that slashing its emissions by 30% by 2030 is the equivalent of cutting 10 gigatons of CO₂ emissions over the next 20 years. This means that the international community can rapidly curb the short-term rate of global temperature warming, and the speed at which temperatures rise matter greatly.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for our planet that cannot be missed,” said Carl Pope, senior advisor to United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions Mike Bloomberg and former CEO and chairman of the Sierra Club. “Cutting methane pollution from oil and gas is the most affordable and easiest component of keeping 1.5 alive.”

The new CGS study, which integrates previous work, reexamines what cutting methane emissions by 30% over the next decade could do for global temperature rise compared to focusing only on reducing CO₂ and associated greenhouse gases. The study primarily focused on strategies which could help avoid crossing climate change tipping points–ice sheet melt or disruption of oceanic currents.

It found that even if CO₂ emissions were to steadily decrease and the planet reach net-zero emissions around 2050, over half of the global temperature decrease by 2045 would have come from dedicated methane abatement. Additionally, a 30% reduction in methane emissions over the next 12 years would limit global temperature rise to 0.28°C instead of 0.34°C without methane abatement.

Furthermore, the analysis found, rapid methane and CO₂ abatement together over the next decade can moderate near-term temperature change and deliver longer-term temperature stabilization compared to focusing only on methane or CO₂.

“Our research shows that the maximum and immediate methane abatement is crucial to limiting global temperature increases and achieving global climate goals over the next 15 years,” said Nathan Hultman, director of CGS and co-author of the report. “For the global community to meet the Global Methane Pledge requires 85% reduction in oil and gas emissions, over 50% reduction in coal methane emissions, and more than 25% reduction in landfill methane emissions.”



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