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UN climate report finds that cutting methane is essential for the planet’s survival

Screen Shot 2021-08-09 at 1.44.54 PM

Source: Reuters/The Pig Site/Global Ag Media, 9 August 2021, photo credit: World Meteorological Organization

In four decades of climate negotiations, the world has focused intensely and exclusively on the most abundant climate-warming gas: carbon dioxide. But in the most recent UN climate report, researchers are urging a focus on another potent greenhouse gas – methane – as the planet’s best hope for staving off catastrophic global warming.

Countries must make “strong, rapid and sustained reductions” in methane emissions in addition to slashing CO2 emissions, scientists warn in a landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released Monday 9 August.

Reuters reports that the plea could cause consternation in countries opting for natural gas as a cleaner alternative to CO2-belching coal. It also could pose challenges for countries where agriculture and livestock, especially cattle, are important industries.

But while both methane and CO2 warm the atmosphere, the two greenhouse gases are not equal. A single CO2 molecule causes less warming than a methane molecule, but lingers for hundreds of years in the atmosphere whereas methane disappears within two decades.

The report puts “a lot of pressure on the world to step up its game on methane,” said IPCC report reviewer Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development in Washington, DC.

“Cutting methane is the single biggest and fastest strategy for slowing down warming,” Zaelke said.
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