This week’s announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency finalizing standards methane emissions from new and modified sources in the oil and gas industry represents anther important step toward dealing with the threat presented by climate change.
Methane accounts for about a quarter of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Pound for pound, the gas traps more than 80 times as much heat on our planet in the short term as carbon dioxide does.
The good news is that solutions to plug methane leaks already exist at low cost. These solutions are mostly low-tech, involving better environmental management of oil and gas well completions, improved seals, better flow management, and methane recapture and re-use. Methane, after all, is simply natural gas, and therefore is valuable. That means that better methane management is relatively low–or even negative cost.
We know that climate change presents real challenges to national security. America’s military, and militaries around the world are taking the climate threat seriously. Already climate change is harming global security through its impacts on resource scarcity, extreme weather, food supplies, water availability, and sea level rise.
Because of this imminent threat, we need action now. Carbon dioxide emissions pose the greatest long-term threat to our global climate, and reducing these emissions must form the core of any long-term climate strategy. But given the current pace of global warming and the risk of irreversible changes, we can and must take immediate steps to cool the planet.
Reducing methane emissions could quickly affect the trajectory of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Effective reduction in emissions could give the world the “breathing space” needed to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions.
This rule on new sources of methane pollution is a good first step for the EPA. Now, we must build on progress. The private sector should do all it can to immediately reduce emissions, and then the EPA should begin planning to create standards for existing sources of methane as well.