‘Knock out Methane’, a provocative and tongue-in-cheek animated video produced for GCHA by Wit and Wisdom, explores how methane’s role in the biggest threat to public health – climate change – can be diminished through clear action.
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London/Washington DC, 30 August 2023:- Making deep cuts to global methane emissions could deliver substantial health benefits while also limiting global warming to 1.5C or close to it, according to a series of reports published today by the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA). During December’s COP28 climate summit fossil fuel-producing countries will likely be challenged to commit to concrete actions towards eliminating methane leaks from existing fossil fuel facilities, as a near term step to reduce global warming.
Mitigating Methane: A Global Health Strategy, produced by Abt Associates on behalf of GCHA in order to close the knowledge gap on the intersection of methane and human health, finds that while methane emitted today exerts health and climate effects, it remains in the atmosphere for just 12 years – and that slashing emissions provides a rapid, near-term opportunity to make a substantial difference in global warming, even while reducing CO2 emissions proceeds . According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the pathway to limiting climate warming to1.5C requires substantial cuts to methane .
Some 150 countries have signed up to the Global Methane Pledge since its launch at COP26, committing to collectively reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030 . This could avert 0.3 degrees Celsius of warming, and make a major difference in whether we successfully limit warming to safe levels of 1.5C – but this will be achieved only if countries generate concrete methane action plans that are then implemented.
“Every pathway to limiting climate warming to close to 1.5C demands rapid, substantial cuts to methane,” said Dr Jeni Miller, Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance, a network of health professional and health civil society organizations addressing climate change. “Slashing methane emissions now from the energy, agriculture, and waste sectors can deliver rapid and substantial health and climate benefits. Recognition of the health benefits that can be reaped must galvanize greater action by governments to reduce methane emissions, to make near term changes that improve people’s health, are low- or no-cost, and that give us a fast win on climate change”.
“Implementing well-chosen strategies to mitigate methane emissions provides great opportunities to reduce the health impacts of air pollution, unhealthy foods, and noxious and toxic leaching from waste sites”, continued Miller. “We’re constantly learning more about the extent and impact of methane sources; methane leaks from fossil fuel production and use are far greater than previously thought, and leaks are occurring at every stage in the fossil fuel life cycle, from mines and wells, to pipelines, to your kitchen stove. Every leakage of fossil methane brings with it dangerous co-pollutants. Food production and waste sites also produce methane, while changes that would reduce these emissions can also improve nutrition and reduce toxic exposures and disease transmission”.
Ahead of Clean Air Day on September 7th, air quality groups – including GCHA – wrote to COP28 President Dr Al Jaber, calling on him to put air pollution ‘firmly on the agenda’.
“Short-term solutions to reduce methane emissions must go hand-in-hand with the ongoing transformation of our energy, food, and waste management systems”, added Miller. “It’s not one versus the other, it’s both-and: we’ve got to stop methane leaks from oil wells and move quickly to phase out fossil fuels”.
“We must rapidly move toward regenerative agriculture and widespread access to nutritious, plant-rich whole foods diets, while making existing livestock healthier to reduce near term emissions”, said Miller. “We can compost food, farm, and human waste, even while we move towards reducing the wastage of food. Methane mitigation offers a quick win, while tackling CO2 is the long game – at this stage in the climate crisis, we need both. Fortunately, both offer opportunities that could improve people’s health.”
“Methane’s effects on the environment are extensive and well understood”, said Amanda Quintana, the project director for Abt Associates. “What we need now is to mobilize the health community and help people understand that, because methane has both indirect and direct impacts on human health, there are direct health benefits to reducing methane emissions, both in the short- and long-term.”
To promote the reports, GCHA today released a provocative tongue-in-cheek video about the need to cut methane emissions and the benefits to health of doing so. Titled ‘Knock out Methane’, the animated video produced for GCHA by Wit and Wisdom, explores how methane’s role in the biggest threat to public health – climate change – can be diminished through clear action. Watch on YouTube.
Download the video here in multiple languages.
Key Extracts from the Report Series
The methane report series explores how methane impacts the climate, and human health, before taking a deep dive into the sources of methane emissions from the energy fuels, food and agriculture, and waste sectors, and the human health benefits of targeted strategies for methane reduction.
As the main report Mitigating Methane: A Global Health Strategy states, “methane is a powerful greenhouse gas (GHG) that is accelerating global warming and worsening air quality by contributing to the formation of ground-level ozone, a toxic air pollutant. Pollutants emitted along with methane—otherwise referred to as methane co-pollutants—contaminate the air, water, and soil humans depend on. Methane emitted today only remains in the atmosphere for 12 years, which means that while methane exerts health and climate effects for several years after being released into the atmosphere, cutting methane now can deliver immediate and substantial health benefits. Limiting global warming to 1.5C without overshooting cannot be achieved without deep cuts to methane emissions”.
“The impacts of methane on health and health benefits of methane mitigation strategies are not widely recognized, leaving root causes of poor health unaddressed”, continues the report. “There are significant opportunities to advocate for strategies that reduce methane emissions and improve public health. Furthermore, increased understanding of the potential health benefits could have a powerful influence on the views and behaviors of the public and on the actions of policymakers and decisionmakers that could drive transformational system changes in the way we produce and utilize energy, produce and consume food, and manage waste. These transformations would ultimately result in reduction of methane emissions and associated health risks and offer the potential for significant health benefits.”
Download Mitigating Methane: A Global Health Strategy
Mitigating Methane from the Fossil Fuels Energy Sector, a Global Health Strategy
“Targeted technical solutions to reduce methane emissions from fossil fuels can deliver multiple human health benefits. First, they can limit tropospheric ozone, a harmful air pollutant created by methane emitted from sources such as oil and natural gas extraction, production, combustion, as well as coal mining. Methane-driven tropospheric ozone can lead to adverse health outcomes, such as cardiovascular diseases, asthma, respiratory illness, and premature death, resulting in roughly 1 million premature deaths yearly”
“The energy sector must take rapid action to reduce methane emissions from existing production and use, even while the full transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy is underway. Cutting methane emissions from fossil fuel production, distribution, and end use through readily available, cost-effective solutions is a powerful lever for reducing near-term warming and avoiding dangerous warming tipping points, while also yielding benefits for people’s health.”
Download Mitigating Methane from the Fossil Fuels Energy Sector
Mitigating Methane from Food and Agriculture, a Global Health Strategy
“To achieve meaningful methane emissions reductions, systemic changes must be made to the food system including agricultural production. For example, many existing dietary guidelines and agricultural subsidies currently promote caloric production over nutrition and good health outcomes, and often prioritize subsidies for meat and dairy production to achieve low consumer prices. In doing so, societies may have access to low prices for subsidized products, but also bear the burden of increased emissions, environmental harms, and health impacts. The industrialization of global food production contributes to such harms, with marginalized and vulnerable communities around the world inequitably burdened. Changes to dietary guidelines that increase access to healthy, nutritional, plant-rich, and low-emission diets must be pursued, for high-income groups to improve health while reducing disproportionate emissions, and for low-income and climate-vulnerable groups to increase food security and food sovereignty.”
“Fortunately, most solutions for methane reduction are simple and cost-effective and can result in land conservation benefits, emissions reductions, and improved health outcomes.”
Download Mitigating Methane from Food and Agriculture, a Global Health Strategy
Mitigating Methane from the Waste Sector, a Global Health Strategy
“Municipal solid waste contributes to roughly 12 percent of global anthropogenic methane emissions . Methane emissions from municipal solid waste come from the decomposition of organic waste, such as food waste and yard waste, in anaerobic (low-oxygen or oxygen-free) environments. The amount of methane produced depends on the organic content present in waste, the amount of moisture in the waste, and the oxygen levels”.
“Addressing methane emissions from the municipal solid waste and wastewater sectors through overall system improvements is crucial to combating climate change and addressing existing public health concerns. Luckily, most solutions for methane reduction are feasible and cost-effective and can result in resource conservation benefits, emissions reductions, and improved health outcomes. This creates an opportunity for solutions-oriented conversations with policymakers, calling on them to support waste sector methane mitigation solutions. It will also be important to monitor progress to keep local authorities and facility operators accountable.”
Download Mitigating Methane from the Waste Sector, a Global Health Strategy
Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, Global Climate and Health Alliance, +34 691 826 764 (Europe) – [email protected] is checked regularly.
 Visit the website: https://climateandhealthalliance.org/initiatives/methane-health/
 Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 ºC (SR 15): Emission Pathways and System Transitions Consistent with 1.5°C Global Warming
Summary for Policymakers https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/
 Global Methane Pledge: https://www.globalmethanepledge.org/
The Global Climate and Health Alliance is the leading global convenor of health professional and health civil society organizations addressing climate change. We are a consortium of health organizations from around the world united by a shared vision of an equitable, sustainable future, in which the health impacts of climate change are minimized, and the health co-benefits of climate change mitigation are maximised.
Find out more: https://climateandhealthalliance.org/about/
About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is a global consulting and research firm that combines data and bold thinking to improve the quality of people’s lives. We partner with clients and communities to advance equity and innovation—from creating scalable digital solutions and combating infectious disease, to mitigating climate change and evaluating programs for measurable social impact—and more.