Oil refinery and petroleum storage tanks in Edmonton MyLoupe/UIG via Getty Images

Canada Takes the Lead on Methane Emissions

In the fight against climate change, one of the most damaging greenhouse gases is also one of the least regulated. Unless new strategies are developed to measure and reduce atmospheric methane, the targets set by the Paris climate agreement are unlikely to be met.

OTTAWA/WASHINGTON, DC – In the fight against climate change, carbon dioxide attracts the bulk of regulators’ attention. But while long-lived CO2 is a key contributor to rising temperatures, it is not the only culprit. Other short-lived super pollutants are also warming the planet, and none is in greater need of regulation than methane.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, methane is 86 times more potent than CO2 as a heat-trapping gas over a 20-year period, and is responsible for about a fifth of the warming caused by humans. If the international community is to have any chance of meeting targets set by the Paris climate agreement and keep global warming well below 2°C above preindustrial levels, the control of methane must be a high priority. At the moment, however, that is not happening on a global scale, and only a handful of countries – led most recently by Canada – have committed to managing methane.

A recent report by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) called methane an “intriguing” policy problem, because there is no dominant cause. Recent spikes in emissions have been attributed to a variety of sources, including forest fires and fermentation in rice fields.

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