So when's the last time you thought about methane?
Don't let carbon dioxide steal the limelight: The Green Fix on the greenhouse gas they told you not to worry about.
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Hi, I’m eco-anxious. Again.
Maybe I’m just having an off day, I told myself. Maybe I’m hormonal. Maybe if I take a break from my laptop and drink some water, then mass extinction won’t seem so bad.
Maybe if I try mindfulness and yoga then I will have a more positive mindset to forest fires. Perhaps a green smoothie and a brisk walk will detox me from reality.
I put on a calming Spotify playlist.
Brew a cup of decaf.
Breathe in and scream oh my god everything is on fire, why aren’t we doing anything?
Except I don’t. Because that would be weird.
This week I read the new IPCC report leak and… it was bad. I gave up, I really did. I told my friends I didn’t see the point in what I was doing. Waited for that usual jolt of hope to return.
But that was my mistake. Hope won’t come from scrolling Instagram or a walk around the block. It’s a choice. I give up and then choose to un-give up. I choose to do what I can, even when things are bleak. Especially when the news is bleak.
So I put the Spotify playlist on, brew some coffee, and just breathe. There’s good things happening out there - don’t let them go to waste.
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What’s Going On?
Leaked UN report reveals devastating impacts of climate crisis to hit sooner than predicted.
Related: Who are the IPCC that produce these reports?
Climate activists in Norway take the battle to end Arctic oil drilling plans to the European Court of Human Rights.
Useful: What is this case about, and who are the climate activists behind it?
Amazon is destroying millions of items of unsold stock each year, a new investigation discovers.
Useful: Sign this petition and this petition to stop Amazon destroying items.
Lands being returned to native tribes in the United States are being used to conserve and restore nature.
Related: What we can learn about ecology from indigenous people.
Expert lawyers take huge step towards making ecocide a recognised crime.
Useful: What is ecocide?
Gabon pitches a funding plan to save rainforest area the size of Delaware.
Useful: Why Gabon is an important country for conservation.
Focus On… Methane
I’m Rowan Emslie, Director of Communications, Europe, at the Clean Air Task Force (CATF). We’re a non-profit organisation working to tackle the worst impacts of climate change.
We’ve just launched a new campaign called #CutMethaneEU to showcase the problem of methane pollution from oil and gas facilities around Europe. We’re travelling around the continent with a special infrared camera that can see methane emissions that are usually invisible.
What actually is methane?
Methane is an invisible gas made of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. It’s used for energy – it makes up most of what we call fossil or natural gas, for example.
Methane emissions come from lots of places but mainly from fossil fuels, wetlands, agriculture (especially from rice and beef production), and wastewater. About 60% is man-made.
What's the problem with methane?
Methane is one of the ‘super pollutants’ which have a massive contribution to climate change. In the short term, methane has a greenhouse effect that is about 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Globally, methane is responsible for at least 25% of global heating.
Even worse, methane emissions have been rising faster than anticipated by the people who modelled the Paris Agreement targets. If the upwards trend continues, it could be impossible to meet the Agreement's targets – even with aggressive CO2 reductions.
And that’s just the emissions we know about. Methane emissions from the oil & gas sector are largely self-reported and under-regulated. Any time researchers have looked into what oil and gas companies have claimed, they’ve found more than reported.
If methane is so polluting, why have I only been hearing about CO2 before?
The impact of methane on the climate has only been understood recently. The concentration of methane in the atmosphere began rising sharply in the mid-2000s, which prompted scientists to pay more attention to where it was coming from and how it impacts the atmosphere, our health and the climate system.
The tools for observing and measuring methane emissions have also been developed recently – like the special camera we’ve used in our campaign, as well as dedicated satellites that are now being used to observe emissions from space.
That said, the alarm bells have been ringing for a while. Policymakers and regulators have been slow to respond to the science, while the media has tended to focus on CO2 as a more widely-understood greenhouse gas. Part of the challenge is educating a wider audience about the dangers of methane.
How can we cut methane emissions?
We can cut 45% of human-caused methane emissions by 2030. The biggest part of those cuts will come from the oil & gas sector, where we’re basically talking about inspecting and fixing leaky pipes and valves and replacing antiquated equipment.
Cutting methane emissions is the quickest way to slow global heating. Because methane is short-lived in the atmosphere (it hangs around for about 10 years rather than 300-1000 years like CO2), action taken this decade will result in tangible changes to global heating in the short term.
Achieving a 45% cut of global man-made methane emissions would prevent a massive 0.3 degrees Celsius of warming by 2040.
Technology already exists to cut 70% of the emissions from the oil and gas sector, but methane emissions are extremely under-regulated. That’s why the EU needs to step in and force companies to deal with all this methane pollution.
In addition, the EU is the world’s largest importer of fossil gas and one of the largest importers of oil. Policy changes in the EU could have a ripple effect to oil and gas producing companies around the world.
What can I do to support the campaign?
First, sign our petition for effective action from the EU here.
Second, share it with your friends, family, and colleagues!
The more signatures we get, the clearer a signal the European Commission has to make its upcoming Methane Strategy fit for purpose. Policymakers have a lot of different issues and causes to consider, but they’ll always pay more attention to an issue that the wider population cares about.
You can follow CATF’s work on Twitter @cleanaircatf and Instagram @the_methane_tour. Support the campaign with the hashtag #CutMethaneEU.
So Now What Do I Do?
How many different greenhouse gases are there? (Plus lots of cool charts)
Take a free online university-led course on the transition to sustainable energy.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
Sign up for the hackathon Kelp-Us-Save-The-Planet-a-thon organised by Carbon Kapture for the 28th July. Do it for the name alone.
Plastic Free July is around the corner! Give the challenge a go.
Are you musical? The UN wants young musicians and activists to get involved in their virtual Play:Fair for People and Planet on the 17th July.
CHANGE THE SYSTEM
Send an open letter to big banks demanding they stop investments in fossil fuels.
Youth and Environment Europe are hiring for a paid part-time Advocacy Coordinator. Aged 18-29? Apply before the 4th July.
For recent graduates: The UN has just launched a new graduate programme to develop careers in sustainable development.
By the way…
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