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Methane: A Neglected Greenhouse Gas


  • Claudia Kemfert
  • Wolf-Peter Schill


Methane is a greenhouse gas that gets far less public attention than carbon dioxide. This is entirely unwarranted. Being 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere, methane accounts for about one-sixth of all anthropogenic (i.e. human-induced) greenhouse gas emissions. Methane is also overlooked when it comes to taking concrete measures for climate protection, despite the fact that reducing methane emissions is potentially cheap. Major sources of methane emissions are livestock farming, the natural gas sector, landfills, wetland rice cultivation and coal mining. In many cases, it is possible to mitigate substantial amounts of methane in a cost-effective way. Moreover, captured methane can be used for generating heat and power. In other words, abating one ton of methane emissions is sometimes cheaper than abating an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. The challenge is to effectively incorporate cutbacks of methane gas emissions into climate policy strategies.

Suggested Citation

  • Claudia Kemfert & Wolf-Peter Schill, 2009. "Methane: A Neglected Greenhouse Gas," Weekly Report, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 5(32), pages 218-223.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwrp:wr5-32

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    Methane; Mitigation; Climate policy;

    JEL classification:

    • Q52 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Pollution Control Adoption and Costs; Distributional Effects; Employment Effects
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming


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