Industry could easily and inexpensively reduce humanity’s methane emissions by at least 30% in a decade, the United Nations said on Thursday, adding that such cuts would slow global warming and prevent hundreds of thousands. dead.
Reducing methane emissions from agriculture, fossil fuel exploitation and waste management is a crucial part of efforts to limit uncontrollable climate change.
The potent greenhouse gas, short lived but much more potent than carbon dioxide, also contributes to toxic air pollution, damaging human health, plants and ecosystems.
Some sectors already have the power to significantly reduce their emissions, according to the UN-led Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s new global methane assessment.
Technical solutions – primarily in the fossil fuel and waste sectors – are “readily available” and can reduce humanity’s methane emissions by more than 30% this decade, according to the analysis.
With other measures currently available, the reduction could reach 45%, he said.
Many of these solutions are inexpensive and some even have “negative” costs, meaning they would be more than cost effective, the report said.
He said the more ambitious 45% reduction could prevent a warming of nearly 0.3 degrees Celsius over the next two decades and reduce ground-level ozone pollution.
It would also prevent 255,000 premature deaths, 73 billion hours of work lost due to extreme heat, 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits each year, and effectively increase global yields of patients. crops of 26 million tonnes.
“Rapid and ambitious methane mitigation is one of the best strategies available today to deliver immediate and lasting multiple benefits for climate, agriculture, human health and ecosystem health,” said Inger Andersen , Head of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in a foreword.
She added that reducing methane emissions was an opportunity to “simultaneously address our interrelated planetary crises” – ranging from climate, biodiversity and waste – and to “make peace with nature”.
– “waste and leakage” –
The 2015 Paris climate agreement saw countries pledge to limit temperature increases to “well below” two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with an ambitious target of 1.5 ° C .
The Earth’s average surface temperature has already risen by about 1.2 ° C above this reference point, enough to increase the severity of droughts, heat waves and super-storms made more destructive by the rising seas.
The new UN report assessed the impacts of methane emissions – and the benefits of reducing them – using five global climate models.
Of the readily available technological solutions to reduce emissions, nearly half were in fossil fuels, with the report stating that it is “relatively easy” to reduce methane at the point of emission and along production or production lines. distribution.
Dave Reay, chairman of carbon management and executive director of the Edinburgh Institute for Climate Change at the University of Edinburgh, said “unnecessary extraction methods and leaky supply lines” in oil, gas and coal meant that these fossil fuels had a “hefty hidden climate penalty”, even before they were burned.
“By capturing methane from oil wells and coal mines, and plugging all those leaks, one of the main drivers of climate change is downsized while simultaneously creating new green jobs and improving the quality of looks for all of us, ”he said in comments to the Science Media Center.
“Rarely in the world of action against climate change, is there such a win-win solution.”
– “Ethically untenable” –
CO2 is responsible for more than three quarters of global warming. But methane also plays an important role.
It has a warming potential 28 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period and its concentration in the atmosphere has more than doubled since the industrial revolution. Over a 20-year period, it is over 80 times more potent.
Failure to act to reduce methane emissions when there are readily available options is “ethically untenable,” said Joeri Rogelj, research director at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London.
In April 2020, a study using imagery data collected by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P surveillance mission found leaks in gas storage and transportation facilities at rates equivalent to annual carbon emissions. of France and Germany combined.
© 2021 AFP