Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is more than 86 times as strong as carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), methane accounts for nearly 30 percent of the rise in the average global temperature since the industrial age began in 1760.
As we rush to stay below 1.5ºC, these next nine years will be the most critical.
Suddenly methane matters a lot, no matter how short its lifespan.
The Global Methane Pledge
According to Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) — a “voluntary partnership of governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society organizations committed to protecting the climate and improving air quality through actions to reduce short-lived climate pollutants” — reducing methane emissions is the most effective way to stay below 1.5ºC.
The goal of the 122 countries who have voluntarily committed to the Global Methane Pledge is to reduce global methane emissions by 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030. This amounts to 8 gigatons of CO2 equivalent per year. The CCAC advises that cutting methane alone is projected to reduce global warming 0.2ºC by 2050.
“Every tenth of a degree matters.”Peter Kalmus, NASA Climate Scientist
The emphasis is on global reduction, rather than individual nations each reducing methane by 30 percent, which places more burden on the largest methane emitters. The IEA Global Methane Tracker cites the five largest methane emitters, for all sources of methane, to be: China, India, United States, Russia and Brazil. Of these five, only the United States and Brazil have committed to the voluntary Global Methane Pledge.
The urgency of immediate action, after decades of denial, was summed up so eloquently and concisely by Leonardo DiCaprio in a speech before the UN in 2014, “The time to answer the greatest challenge of our existence on this planet is now. You can make history or be vilified by it.”
There are 3 main sources of human-caused methane:
1. Oil and Gas. According to the IEA Global Methane Tracker, oil and gas extraction, processing, and transportation is responsible fro 40 percent of human-caused methane. The technology currently exists to capture methane emissions emitted by the fossil fuel energy sector at no net cost.
2. Waste. Food waste and organic matter tossed in landfills creates a vast amount of methane. In the United States, 40 percent of the food produced each year is wasted. The EPA established a Food Recovery Hierarchy to help eliminate US food waste through its various means, listed in priority order: Source Reduction by reducing the amount of excess food created; Feed Hungry People by establishing effective, regular donation channels into food banks, shelters, etc; Feed Animals by converting food remains into animal food; Industrial Uses by burning food scraps to create energy; Composting by placing all food scraps onto compost piles to generate nutrient rich soil amendments that will increase carbon drawdown in the soil as well as nourish all its rooted plant life; and lastly, Landfill Incineration as a last resort. Landfills can eliminate methane by using existing technology to capture the methane before its released into the atmosphere.
3. Agriculture. Methane is released daily through livestock manure and gastroenteric relief. Additionally, the wet rice paddies emit methane when oxygen can’t be absorbed by the soil. Livestock feed supplements, such as those made of seaweed, can reduce methane emitted by livestock by more than 50%. Additionally, eating vegan as many days as possible, and drinking nondairy milk, lowers the number of cows needed to feed the global population, which further reduces methane emissions from this sector. China established a new practice of draining rice paddy fields mid-season to cut methane. Rice grown across the globe can now incorporate this same practice in each region’s agricultural norms.
It’s clear that there are multiple effective solutions for each of these human-caused methane sources that can be scaled-up very quickly and economically. Thus, the Global Methane Pledge goal of slashing global methane 30% from 2020 levels by 2030 is within reach. All that’s required is the will to do so. Our motivation to act hinges on our awareness and acceptance of the importance to do so.
“Climate change is real. It is happening right now, it is the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.”Leonardo DiCaprio in his acceptance speech for Best Actor (The Revenant) at the 2016 Oscars
John Kerry’s Climate Coalition to Reduce Methane
In November of 2021, the New York Times reported that John Kerry had established a bipartisan “star-studded” Climate Coalition composed of “world leaders, military brass, and Hollywood celebrities” for the purpose of driving a 30% cut in global methane by 2030. Environmentalist and climate action hawk Leonardo DiCaprio is one such celebrity. DiCaprio’s deep passion for reducing methane dates back nearly a decade.
“The more I’ve learned about this issue, the more I’ve become terrified,” said DiCaprio in a 2017 YouTube conversation with Kerry about the methane crisis. “I’m really scared. We’re at that turning point right now and we’re going to look back at this moment in history, and frankly this administration, and certain people are going to be vilified for not taking action.”
DiCaprio went on to say, “Being on the sort of campaign so to speak for global warming, climate change, you realize the amazing inaction that this country has taken. You go to anywhere else in the world, there is no argument about climate change. There is no argument. People accept it as a fact. This is the only country in the world where we have a political party that argues what is now basically scientific fact. I mean, it’s like arguing whether gravity exists or not.”
President Biden appointed John Kerry to be his Climate Envoy just a few weeks after the November 2020 election. At the September 2022 Global Methane, Climate and Clean Air Forum in Washington, DC, Kerry warned that methane emissions is currently on a trajectory that shows a 13 percent percent increase, rather than a 30 percent decrease, by 2030. The Global Methane Pledge was established to accomplish the 30 percent cut in methane.
“On finance, we have an immense uphill battle.”John Kerry, Climate Envoy, Speaker at the Global Methane, Climate and Clean Air Forum 2022
A September article in DownToEarth which was covering the 2022 Forum, highlighted Kerry’s impassioned call for increased financing to help companies slash methane. Trillions of dollars are need to meet this objective.
Biden’s IRA Bill Methane Emissions Charge
On August 16, 2022, President Biden signed the first climate action bill passed by Congress —the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022. The bill’s broad and sweeping provisions include a methane emissions charge for fossil fuel energy facilities that are required to report their greenhouse gas emissions to the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting Program (GHGRP).
Facilities will begin paying the $900 charge in 2025 for the previous year’s emissions in 2024. The jump to $1,500 will begin in 2027, for 2026 emissions.
The IRA simultaneously incentivizes an immediate transition to clean energy which will in turn help lower the methane emissions charges that will be assessed beginning in 2024.
Climate Change Weather Extremes
Hurricane Ian’s destruction is a stark reminder of the catastrophic impact that rising sea levels have on coastal communities. Scientists warn that the extreme weather events we’ve been experiencing across the globe, will be considered mild in the near future as we hurdle our planet unchecked toward the species-threatening 1.5ºC and beyond.
“This report shows climate impacts heading into uncharted territories of destruction. Yet each year we double down on this fossil fuel addiction, even as the symptoms get rapidly worse.”UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in video message following UN’s United in Science Report, September 13, 2022
We’re currently at 1.3ºC. ABC News reported that hurricane Ian’s storm surge in Fort Meyers was measured at a record breaking 7 feet, and 9 feet in South Carolina. A first hand survivor account on Sanibel Island, shared during Anderson Cooper’s coverage of Ian on September 30, 2022, described a wall of water 25 feet high crashing down on the building he was sheltering in. He reiterated how grateful he was that the building was solid and that he was high enough to survive such a ferocious force. Tragically, several of his neighbors were not as fortunate. The Sanibel survivor warned listeners to never hunker down if you’re in the cone, always evacuate. He vowed to never make that mistake again.
Ian’s maximum sustained windspeed was recorded at 150 mph by NOAA. New Smyrna Beach, Florida received 28.60 inches of rain within 27 hours during Ian’s sustained torrential downpours. These are just a small sampling of the extraordinary and historic extremes that have begun inflicting record-breaking deadly tolls in communities around the world, which should terrify every single one of us into action. This type of horrific death and destruction is every bit as terrifying as DiCaprio alluded to five years ago.
A January 25, 2021 Washington Post article highlighted that the annual global ice loss of the Thwaites Glacier (aka the Doomsday Glacier) had reached an alarming 1.2 trillion tons of ice. MIT noted that this staggering figure would become much worse in coming years, that glaciers and ice sheets would begin melting at an increasing rate if we didn’t slow down global warming quickly.
Scientists sounded the alarm in 2022 that the Doomsday Glacier is on track to completely melt within the next five years, and if and when that happens, sea levels will rise anywhere from 3 to 10 feet.
Is the urgency of methane reduction sinking in yet?
In a recent article that focused on Climate Central’s in-depth account regarding the financial impact that rising sea levels will have on coastal communities, Alex Lubben of NBC News noted that “Because all land below the tide line is, by law, state-owned, the encroachment of the tides could essentially vaporize huge amounts of private, taxable wealth. That, in turn, will decrease property tax revenue substantially in coastal areas, which experts caution could ultimately bankrupt local governments.”
Through Climate Central’s extensive research on rising sea levels, private property, and tidal boundary lines, it was revealed that Florida, Louisiana, Texas, North Carolina and Virginia are the top five states with the most private property having the greatest exposure to falling below tidal boundary lines by 2050.
What We All Must Do Now to Cut Human-caused Methane
At the Petersburg Climate Dialogue held in July 2022, a gathering of 40 concerned countries, UN Secretary, António Guterres was blunt. “We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.”
As global citizens, we can each take responsibility to eliminate our contribution to the methane crisis by committing ourselves to immediate methane reduction action by eliminating food waste, composting food scraps, drinking nondairy milk as much as possible, and eating vegan 3-7 days per week. These are very simple and basic everyday new habits that not only reduce methane emissions, but actually save money and improve health.
Let’s choose collective action. Acting now will result in a human species-saving positive impact.
“There is a huge difference in what happens if we act dramatically now, or if we fail to act.”Climatologist Michael E. Mann, The Doomsday Glacier is Collapsing… Who is Most at Risk?
The IEA Global Methane Tracker summed up the purpose of the pledge so effectively beneath the multiple charts and graphs on its home page. “The launch of the Global Methane Pledge needs to be a watershed moment for accelerated action on methane, building on the leadership that some countries and companies have already shown.”
There will be an annual review of global methane reduction progress. Please commit to being part of its success. #ActNow
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