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Climate Solutions: Methane and Climate Change Toolbox
Levels of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, have doubled in the past 150 years due to human activity, particularly from fossil fuels and extensive farming. Until recently, most methane monitoring was conducted by industry, but now independent researchers and citizen scientists are tracking methane releases in their communities. In addition, the soon-to-be-launched MethaneSAT will measure methane emissions anywhere on Earth with great precision.
Learn more with the list of resources below, part of an ongoing Society of Environmental Journalists publishing project focused on covering climate solutions. And read a methane reporting tipsheet. Plus, watch the recording of an SEJ virtual webinar, Covering Climate Solutions: Containing and Monitoring Methane.
UNEP Global Methane Assessment
This 2021 report, “Benefits and Costs of Mitigating Methane Emissions,” from the United Nations Environment Programme, explains the role cutting methane emissions plays in slowing the rate of global warming.
Methane Impact Study
In this study, published in Nature Communications in 2022, scientists looked at methane concentration in the atmosphere. They found that while oil and gas activity has slowed since the pandemic, the atmospheric concentration of methane accelerated in 2020 despite declining methane emissions from fossil fuels. Levels also set another milestone in 2021.
EPA Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks 1990-2020
This U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report outlines trends in greenhouse gas emissions over a 30-year-period. For methane emissions, readers can look up total methane emissions from 1990-2020 and from various sources.
This environmental group, whose work focuses exclusively on the fossil fuels extraction industry, particularly in Colorado, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Texas, uses optical gas imaging cameras to make visible the invisible emissions from oil and gas facilities with its Oil & Gas Threat Map. The group may be a good source for reporters to get information on what communities in those states are doing to stop flaring.
MethaneSAT, a subsidiary of the Environmental Defense Fund, will launch a satellite into space in the fall of 2022 to exclusively study and monitor global methane emissions.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model, or GLEAM, collects global data on livestock production, and methane and other greenhouse gas emissions from supply chains, as well as by species of animals. FAO also has an older report on major cuts of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock that provides useful examples of possible solutions to reduce emissions from livestock, with five case studies outlining examples of reduction potentials from around the world. In addition, FAO has resources specifically on livestock and enteric methane globally. The agency also explores possible mitigation opportunities, which can be a potential entry point for reporters.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Resources
An update on USDA scientists working to reduce methane emissions highlights ongoing research at the department on how a seaweed species could potentially reduce methane emissions in livestock production. The USDA also has a climate change page with links to studies by the agency’s Economic Research Service on climate change, as well as by other agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Effects of Dietary Seaweed on Cattle Methane Yield
Seaweed in livestock feed has recently been touted as a possible solution to reducing methane emissions from livestock. This scientific study examines the effect of dietary seaweed on dairy cattle on performance and methane yield.
Global Waste Management Outlook
This U.N. Environment Programme report is a global assessment of the state of waste management. While not exclusively focused on methane, it looks at possible governance entry points in effective waste management for sustainable development.
Federal Rules on Fossil Fuels
EPA Proposed New Source Performance Standards
In November 2021, the U.S. EPA proposed new rules to regulate methane emissions and other harmful air pollution from both new and existing sources in the oil and natural gas industry.
State Policy on Flaring
EIA: Natural Gas Data on Venting and Flaring by State
The U.S. Energy Information Administration, or EIA, the federal agency tasked with collecting, analyzing, and disseminating energy information, collects state-by-state statistics on the venting and flaring of natural gas. It’s a good place to see the impact of state-level policy.
EIA: North Dakota Meets Natural Gas Target
Control of flaring, when natural gas is burned at well sites and emits greenhouse gases, has mostly been left to state-level regulators. A number of states are enacting regulations to capture natural gas to reduce flaring. A notable example is North Dakota, highlighted in this report from the U.S. EIA. The state used to have the second highest amount of gas flared after Texas. Newly enacted targets have brought down flaring even after oil and gas activity resumed following a brief pause in 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These resources were compiled for this special report by Nushin Huq, a Texas-based independent journalist who covers energy and the environment. Prior to freelancing, Huq was the Houston correspondent for Bloomberg Industry Group. Her work has appeared in Bloomberg, Fortune, Texas Climate News and Texas Lawbook.