8.2 Methane (Ch. 33)

Short-lived climate chemical pollutants, such as methane, exert a much more powerful climate impact than CO2 in the near term. The IPCC estimates that, in the first 20 years after it is released, methane traps 84 times more heat in the earth’s atmosphere than CO2 (on a per ton basis), while other researchers suggest it could be even more of a near-term warming agent. Given this, and with methane the second most dominant climate-warming chemical, reducing emissions is vital to avoid dangerous climate change. The DDPP technical report for the United States indicates that, to limit warming to 2°C or less, GHG emissions must be reduced by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The United States is not currently on track to meet that goal with respect to methane. Any emissions reduction strategy must target the three largest anthropogenic sources of methane (i.e., fossil fuel production and transportation, agriculture, and waste management), which together account for 96% of national emissions. In each sector, emissions can be reduced by employing available technologies to capture methane, and utilizing it as an energy source. While this benefits emitters, reducing their energy costs and/ or generating additional revenues (e.g., from the sale of captured methane), many facilities are yet to deploy capture systems. The chapter addresses the technological pathways to reduce methane emissions in the fossil fuel, agriculture, and waste management sectors, and identify barriers to their adoption. The chapter outlines regulatory reforms needed to overcome those barriers and otherwise support emissions reductions.