“Global Methane Assessment” :The UN Report on human-caused methane emissions

What is the News?

Climate and Clean Air Coalition(CCAC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has released a report titled “Global Methane Assessment: Benefits and Costs of Mitigating Methane Emissions”.

Objective: The report has suggested that the world needs to dramatically cut methane emissions to avoid the worst of climate change.

Key Findings of the Global Methane Assessment Report:

Increase in Methane Emissions:

  • Currently, Human-caused methane emissions are increasing faster at any other time (since record keeping began in the 1980s).
  • Carbon dioxide levels have dropped during the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. However, methane in the atmosphere reached record levels last year.
  • This was a cause of concern as methane was an extremely powerful greenhouse gas. It was responsible for about 30% of global warming since pre-industrial times.
Source of Methane Emissions:
  • More than half of global methane emissions stem from human activities in three sectors: fossil fuels (35%), waste (20%) and agriculture(40%).
  • Fossil fuel sector: Oil and gas extraction, processing and distribution account for 23%. Coal mining alone accounts for 12% of emissions.
  • Waste sector: Landfills and wastewater make up about 20% of global anthropogenic emissions.
  • Agricultural sector: Livestock emissions from manure and fermentation represent roughly 32%. Further, rice cultivation accounts for 8% of global anthropogenic emissions.

Methane Mitigation according to Global Methane Assessment Report:

The mitigation potential in different sectors varies between countries and regions:

  • Europe had the greatest potential to curb methane emissions from farming, fossil fuel operations and waste management.
  • India had the greatest potential to reduce methane emissions in the waste sector.
  • China’s mitigation potential was best in coal production and livestock.
  • Africa’s mitigation potential was best in livestock, followed by oil and gas.
What needs to be done?
  • Human-caused methane emissions must be cut by 45% to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
  • Such a cut would prevent a rise in global warming by up to 0.3 degrees Celsius by 2045.
  • It would also prevent 26 lakh premature deaths, 77 lakh asthma-related hospital visits annually as well as 25 million tonnes of crop losses.
  • Further, three human behavioural changes could reduce methane emissions by 65–80 million tonnes per year over the next few decades. The behavioural changes are:
    • Reducing food waste and loss
    • Improving livestock management and
    • Adopting healthy diets (vegetarian or with a lower meat and dairy content).
Climate and Clean Air Coalition(CCAC)
  • Climate and Clean Air Coalition is a voluntary partnership of governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society organizations.
  • Aim: The coalition aims to protect the climate and improve air quality through actions to reduce short-lived climate pollutants.
  • India is a member of the coalition.
What are Short-lived Climate Pollutants?
  • Short-lived climate pollutants are climate pollutants that remain in the atmosphere for a much shorter period of time than carbon dioxide (CO2). Though short-lived they have the potential to warm the atmosphere many times greater than CO2.
  • Several short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons. These alone are responsible for up to 45% of current global warming.
About Methane:
  • Firstly, Methane (CH4) is a colourless, odourless, and highly flammable gas composed of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms.
  • Secondly, Methane is found in small quantities in Earth’s atmosphere. Methane is also a powerful greenhouse gas.
  • Thirdly, Major natural sources of methane include emissions from wetlands and oceans, and from the digestive processes of termites.
  • Fourthly, Methane sources related to human activities include rice production, landfills, raising cattle and other ruminant animals, and energy generation.

Source: Down To Earth



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