Acting rapidly to deploy readily available methane mitigation measures by sector can immediately slow global warming

Ilissa B. Ocko, Tianyi Sun, Drew Shindell, Michael Oppenheimer, Alexander N. Hristov, Stephen W. Pacala, Denise L. Mauzerall, Yangyang Xu, Steven P. Hamburg

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137 Scopus citations


Methane mitigation is essential for addressing climate change, but the value of rapidly implementing available mitigation measures is not well understood. In this paper, we analyze the climate benefits of fast action to reduce methane emissions as compared to slower and delayed mitigation timelines. We find that the scale up and deployment of greatly underutilized but available mitigation measures will have significant near-term temperature benefits beyond that from slow or delayed action. Overall, strategies exist to cut global methane emissions from human activities in half within the next ten years and half of these strategies currently incur no net cost. Pursuing all mitigation measures now could slow the global-mean rate of near-term decadal warming by around 30%, avoid a quarter of a degree centigrade of additional global-mean warming by midcentury, and set ourselves on a path to avoid more than half a degree centigrade by end of century. On the other hand, slow implementation of these measures may result in an additional tenth of a degree of global-mean warming by midcentury and 5% faster warming rate (relative to fast action), and waiting to pursue these measures until midcentury may result in an additional two tenths of a degree centigrade by midcentury and 15% faster warming rate (relative to fast action). Slow or delayed methane action is viewed by many as reasonable given that current and on-the-horizon climate policies heavily emphasize actions that benefit the climate in the long-term, such as decarbonization and reaching net-zero emissions, whereas methane emitted over the next couple of decades will play a limited role in long-term warming. However, given that fast methane action can considerably limit climate damages in the near-term, it is urgent to scale up efforts and take advantage of this achievable and affordable opportunity as we simultaneously reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number054042
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • climate change
  • climate policy
  • early action
  • methane mitigation
  • rate of warming


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