SANTIAGO DE CHILE - One of the most important achievements of last year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow was the Global Methane Pledge, a commitment by more than 100 countries to cut methane emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030. Reducing methane emissions is not only among the quickest and most effective ways to stem climate change, it will also go a long way toward improving public health.
A highly potent greenhouse gas, methane traps over 80 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2) does, and methane emissions account for roughly a quarter of current global warming. They thus bear significant responsibility for climate-related threats like more intense and frequent extreme weather events, increased food insecurity, greater risk of pandemic-inducing infectious diseases, reduced access to clean water, and deteriorating air quality.
The public health implications are severe, especially for the marginalized and under-resourced communities that are already disproportionately vulnerable to risks owing to factors like lack of access to medical care, poor nutrition, unsafe living or working conditions, discrimination, and exposure to other types of pollution. In addition to undermining public health by exacerbating climate change, methane and co-emitted pollutants also damage public health by contributing to ground-level ozone and particulate pollution.