Cutting methane emissions is one of the most effective ways to stabilize the climate. It can also improve public health. Unlocking opportunities to make gains on both fronts could spark greater ambition for more significant methane reductions. That’s why EDF, with the help of the Wellcome Trust, is bringing together diverse groups of researchers, policy experts and advocates to develop recommendations for action.
Methane's role in the climate crisis
Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas and short-lived climate pollutant, is accelerating climate change and contributing to impacts on our health. More frequent, intense storms, heat waves and droughts threaten our ecosystems and daily lives, and oil and gas, agriculture and landfills are major sources of this potent pollutant.
Methane's health impacts
Methane can also result in poor air quality by contributing to the formation of ground level ozone and particulate pollution. Exposure to ozone and particulate pollution damages airways, aggravates lung diseases, causes asthma attacks, increases rates of preterm birth, cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, and heightens stroke risk.
Harmful to local communities
These air pollutants as well as other toxic pollutants emitted alongside methane can be especially damaging to communities living and working near oil and gas operations, landfills and agricultural facilities.
Exposure to these pollutants comes with a significant price tag: lost productivity, higher medical costs and greater pressure on health systems. Ozone can even exacerbate food insecurity by suppressing crop growth.
Solutions to cut methane, improve health
Highlighting the near-term health benefits of cutting methane is critical to generating the support, collaboration and investment needed to cut methane emissions and improve public health worldwide.
The Health-Methane Nexus at COP27
The United Nations climate meeting, COP27, brought together global leaders to tackle the greatest environmental challenge of our time. EDF air quality experts participated in several panels spotlighting the connection between air quality, health and climate.
The Health-Methane Nexus: Opportunities for Action: A discussion about the intersection between methane mitigation strategies and public health, the importance of elevating health considerations in prioritizing methane mitigation strategies and how to identify opportunities to accelerate action, moderated by EDF Senior VP of Healthy Communities, Sarah Vogel.
(photo from left to right: Sarah Vogel, Environmental Defense Fund; Todd Crane, International Livestock Research Institute; Carolina Urmenita, Global Methane Hub; Adrián Fernández, Iniciativa Climática de México)
Learn more from this COP27 panel on the health-methane nexus. Highlights of the discussion include:
— There are opportunities and inspiring case studies across oil and gas, agriculture, and waste sectors, yet health benefits are not quantified.
— A climate justice approach is critical, with different health benefit opportunities in low, middle, and high income countries.
Note about the video: a delay in the livestream recording omits the introductions and the first speaker, Dr. Rodrigo Seguel, researcher at the Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR2), based in Chile. Download Dr. Seguel’s slides here.
New report from UNEP and Climate & Clean Air Coalition: Global Methane Assessment
This assessment, from the United Nations Environment Programme and the Climate & Clean Air Coalition, highlights the critical role that reducing methane emissions can play in slowing the rate of climate change. There are multiple benefits to fast action on methane: reduction in the rate of global warming, improved air quality, strengthened food security, and job creation, among others.Read the report
EDF's Ilissa Ocko's TED Talk: The fastest way to slow climate change now
"Cutting methane is the single fastest, most effective opportunity to reduce climate change risks in the near term," says atmospheric scientist Ilissa Ocko. That's because, unlike carbon dioxide, methane's warming power doesn't come from a gradual buildup over time but is almost entirely from recent emissions. Ocko identifies three main sources of methane pollution which, if addressed, could dramatically slow down the rate of global warming within years -- not decades. "This is the methane moment," Ocko says.Watch the TED Talk
New report on the role of animal health to reduce emissions
A report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in collaboration with the Global Dairy Platform and the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, digs into case studies that can provide guidance for those in the livestock sector as well as policy makers who want to capture co-benefits of cattle health as part of climate commitments.Read the report