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.

Why is it as critical to address as carbon dioxide?

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 reduce the impact of climate change.

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.

Because methane is so potent, and because we have solutions that reduce emissions, addressing methane is the fastest, most effective way to slow the rate of warming now.

Where is it coming from?

Methane can come from many sources, both natural and manmade. One major source of manmade methane emissions is the global oil and gas industry.

  • At least 25%of today's global warming is caused by manmade methane emissions *

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.

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.