May 6 (UPI) -- Human-caused methane emissions can be reduced by up to 45% this decade, keeping the global temperature within the bounds of the Paris Agreement on climate change, an environmental study released Thursday indicates.
The assessment determined that such a reduction would prevent nearly 0.3 degrees Celsius in global warming by 2045. The Global Methane Assessment was conducted by the U.N. Environment Program and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.
"Cutting methane is the strongest lever we have to slow climate change over the next 25 years and complements necessary efforts to reduce carbon dioxide," UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said. "The benefits to society, economies and the environmental are numerous and far outweigh the cost."
The organizations said methane accounts for about 30% of global warming since pre-industrial times, mostly from fossil fuels, landfills and other waste, and agriculture, namely livestock. Methane gas, though, breaks down quickly and doesn't remain in the atmosphere like carbon dioxide does.
"This means cutting methane emissions now can rapidly reduce the rate of warming in the near-term," the CCAC said in a statement.
The assessment identified what it said were "readily available solutions" to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030, particularly in the fossil fuel industry, such as fixing leaks and reducing venting. About 60% of the reductions are low cost or save money, the report said.
"But targeted measures alone are not enough", the report said. "Additional measures that do not specifically target methane, like a shift to renewable energy, residential and commercial energy efficiency, and a reduction in food loss and waste, can reduce methane emissions by a further 15 percent by 2030."
The CCAC said a 45% reduction in methane emissions also would prevent 260,000 premature deaths, 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits, 73 billion hours of lost labor from extreme heat and 25 million tons of crop losses annually.
"To achieve global climate goals, we must reduce methane emissions while also urgently reducing carbon dioxide emissions," said Drew Shindell, a Duke University climate science professor who also chaired the assessment for the CCAC.
"The good news is that most of the required actions bring not only climate benefits but also health and financial benefits, and all the technology needed is already available."