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Cutting methane emissions is more important to stopping climate change than regulators realized

Regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency don't seem to understand just how much of a role methane reduction can play in fighting climate change.

The EPA is undervaluing how potent methane is as a greenhouse gas, according to a new report from researchers at Stanford, published in the academic journal, Environmental Research Letters.

Using a new method of accounting that emphasizes cuts in methane and other short-lived greenhouse gases, the researchers found that methane deserves much more attention than regulators have been paying to it.

“If you want to keep the world from passing the 1.5 degrees C threshold, you’ll want to pay more attention to methane than we have so far,”Rob Jackson, an earth system science professor at Stanford University and a co-author of the study, told Inside Climate News.

The problem is that the EPA uses a 100 timeframe to account for emissions intensity and methane typically dissipates in a fraction of that time.

However, the gas, which is released in oil and natural gas drilling and is used to heat homes and for ovens across the country, is the second-leading contributor to carbon dioxide.

Last year, methane reduction became the centerpiece of climate negotiations and agreements on steps to reduce the potent greenhouse gas were the biggest win to come out of global talks as part of the IPCC summit in Glasgow.

Scientists at Stanford discovered that methane is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas over the 100-year period that the Environmental Protection Agency uses. But if the impacts are studied over a twenty year period then methane is 81 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Companies like Aclima, Bluefield and the nonprofit MethaneSAT are all working on ways to improve methane emissions monitoring so that companies and regulators can get an accurate picture of these emissions.

Other companies, like Crusoe Energy, are developing systems to use methane from abandoned natural gas wells to power data centers and cryptocurrency mining operations.


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