NOAA analysis finds surge in atmospheric methane, highlighting urgent need for emissions reductions
New analysis on surging levels of methane in the atmosphere “highlights the urgent need for a coordinated global effort to reduce methane emissions,” said Sarah Smith, Program Director, Super Pollutants at Clean Air Task Force.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found in new analysis that atmospheric levels of methane spiked by a record amount in 2021 and are increasing at the fastest-ever recorded rate.
“The continued surge in methane concentrations poses a grave threat to our climate and to life as we know it,” continued Smith. “Methane warms the planet over 80 times more than carbon dioxide during its first 20 years in the atmosphere and is responsible for half a degree Celsius of the global warming we’ve experienced to date. At the same time, reducing methane emissions has a nearly immediate impact on climate change — and is the best strategy we have to reduce warming quickly to help avoid passing irreversible climate tipping points.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has noted that rapid and sustained reductions in methane emissions are essential to keep the world from warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, a crucial threshold to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Beyond critical tipping points, larger, more abrupt, reinforcing, or accelerating changes create the potential for cascading warming effects.
NOAA’s analysis indicates that the annual increase in atmospheric methane last year was 17 parts per billion (ppb), the largest annual increase recorded since systematic measurements began in 1983. Levels of carbon dioxide also continue to increase at historically high rates.
Due to methane’s short lifespan in the atmosphere, reducing methane emissions can immediately slow the rate of global warming, and readily available solutions exist to reduce methane emissions from all major emitting sectors. Using currently available technologies, global methane reductions of at least 30% by 2030 are possible, enough to avoid 0.3 degrees Celsius of warming. Doing so would create co-benefits for air quality and public health, and most available measures would have low or negative mitigation costs, according to the Global Methane Assessment.
Smith continued: “It’s going to take a coordinated, global effort to turn this troubling trend around. President Biden and other world leaders have already demonstrated ambition to reduce methane emissions through the Global Methane Pledge, and now is the time for action. Countries must urgently develop ambitious methane action plans and get to work on policy making right away, while the U.S., EU and other countries should scale up funding for technical assistance and for key organizations like the Climate and Clean Air Coalition that can help catalyze rapid and transformative emissions reductions.”
Troy Shaheen, Communications Director, U.S., Clean Air Task Force, [email protected], +1 845-750-1189
Rowan Emslie, Communications Director, Europe, Clean Air Task Force, [email protected], +32 476 97 36 42
About Clean Air Task Force
Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world.