Will cutting methane emissions help slow global warming?

Definitely. We need to do everything possible to cut manmade methane emissions.  But to get atmospheric methane levels to fall by cutting emissions alone, we would have to fast-track it far beyond what has been done to date. 

In 2021, the US and EU launched the Global Methane Pledge, which commits over 120 nations to cutting manmade methane emissions at least 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030.  That’s critically important and will take concerted global effort to achieve. 

But we need to do even more. According to the Global Methane Assessment conducted by United Nations Environment Programme and the Climate & Clean Air Coalition, available mitigation measures could potentially cut anthropogenic methane emissions by as much as 45% by 2030.  These reductions could avoid nearly 0.3o C of methane-induced warming by the 2040s.  That would complement other climate mitigation efforts and help limit global warming.

It’s vital to achieve this, but it won’t be easy.  Some sources of methane emissions are harder to mitigate than others. Some are unavoidable.  Methane from certain agricultural sources (e.g. rice paddies) are considered “survival” emissions, i.e. emissions necessary for human survival. And as the planet warms, methane emissions from both sources – manmade and natural — will intensify, contributing further to global warming. 

In short, cutting methane emissions is critical, but it also has limitations.  Combining it with other strategies will give us the best chance to bring atmospheric methane down to safe levels.

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