Methane: The other important greenhouse gas

Methane is the primary component of natural gas – a common fuel source.

Why are we concerned about it?

If methane leaks into the air before being used – from a leaky pipe, for instance – it absorbs the sun's heat, warming the atmosphere. For this reason, it's considered a greenhouse gas, like carbon dioxide.

Is it as important to address as carbon dioxide?

While methane doesn't linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat.

In the first two decades after its release, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. We must address both types of emissions if we want to effectively reduce the impact of climate change.

  • About 25%of the manmade global warming we're experiencing is caused by methane emissions *

Where is it coming from?

Methane can come from many sources, both natural and manmade. The largest source of industrial emissions is the oil and gas industry.

How do we fix the methane problem?

Until recently, little was known about where leaks were occurring, or the best way to fix them. In 2012, we kicked off a research series to better pinpoint leaks, and to find solutions.

Now a summary of our 16 studies of the whole U.S. supply chain shows methane emissions are significantly higher than we thought, reinforcing that major reductions from this sector are urgently needed.

In May 2016, the EPA finalized the first-ever national rule to directly limit methane emissions from oil and gas operations, unlocking a new opportunity to reduce climate pollution. We're working to defend these and related federal standards, which are under attack.

A closer look: Explore local leaks

Raising awareness about the scale and impact of methane leaks is essential to developing effective policy.

Our pilot project with Google Earth Outreach helps visualize the climate-damaging leaks found within local communities.

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Sources
* EDF calculation based on IPCC AR5 WGI Chapter 8.