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Methane and climate change

Nations around the world are joining a pledge to curb emissions of methane, and the Biden administration is proposing stricter regulation of the potent greenhouse gas. Explore Stanford research about methane emissions and promising solutions.

Gas flares in North Dakota
Image credit Shutterstock

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas at the center of new rules and initiatives proposed at a major U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

While carbon dioxide is more abundant and longer-lived, methane – the main component of natural gas – is far more effective at trapping heat while it lasts. Over the first two decades after its release, methane is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of warming the climate system.

Stanford-led research shows global emissions of methane from human activities have barreled upward in recent decades, with fossil fuel sources and agriculture powering the climb. Other studies have shown how how to improve estimates of methane leaking from oil and gas operations, outlined a process for converting the gas into carbon dioxide, and highlighted the climate impact of oilfields that routinely burn, or flare, natural gas.

This collection features recent research and insights from Stanford experts on methane emissions and climate change.

Removing methane from the atmosphere

Cattle feedlot

Analyses lay out a blueprint for speeding development of methane removal technologies and modeling how the approach could improve human health and have an outsized effect on reducing future peak temperatures.

September 26, 2021

A better way to track methane in the skies?

Drone hovering above oil refinery

Several studies have found that the EPA underestimates the amount of methane leaking from U.S. oil and gas operations by as much as half. A new Stanford-led study shows how better data can lead to more accurate estimates and points to some of the causes of the EPA’s undercount.

August 9, 2021

Reducing global food system emissions key to meeting climate goals


Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from food systems will be vital to reaching climate goals – and it will require coordinated action across sectors and between national governments, according to new research. 

November 9, 2020

Global methane emissions soar to record high

Global methane

The pandemic has tugged carbon emissions down, temporarily. But levels of the powerful heat-trapping gas methane continue to climb, dragging the world further away from a path that skirts the worst effects of global warming. 

July 14, 2020

Human waste treatment helps solve climate change puzzle

Close-up of plants in soil

New research shows composting human waste produces an effective fertilizer for agriculture while increasing safety, sustainability and jobs, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and waste-borne illnesses.

June 1, 2020

Water heaters' methane leaks are high, but fixable

Burner flame

Emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from water heaters are higher than previously estimated, especially for a new type of heater growing in popularity, a new Stanford study finds. But simple fixes exist.

April 17, 2020

A counterintuitive climate solution


A seemingly counterintuitive approach – converting one greenhouse gas into another – holds promise for returning the atmosphere to pre-industrial concentrations of methane, a powerful driver of global warming.

May 20, 2019

New ways to find natural gas leaks quickly

flying drone

Finding natural gas leaks more quickly and at lower cost could reduce methane emissions. Ten promising technologies mounted on drones, trucks and airplanes were tested last year. The results are in.

September 10, 2019

Measuring crude oil's carbon footprint

Oil emissions

Some oil fields are cleaner than others. But together, they show natural gas management drives more emissions than scientists thought. A new study highlights a path to shrink crude oil's climate impact.

August 30, 2018

U.S. oil and gas methane emissions are 60 percent higher than EPA reports

Natural gas rig

A new study co-authored by Adam Brandt shows leakage equals $2 billion dollars in wasted natural gas – enough to supply 10 million households – and provides a roadmap for future emissions research.

June 21, 2018

Methane from food production could be wildcard in combating climate change

Cow in a field under a wind farm

Possible solutions for reducing methane emissions from agriculture include breeding rice to require less flooding, altering feed for livestock, promoting less meat-intensive diets and deploying more farm bio-digesters.

December 11, 2016

Study of abandoned oil and gas wells reveals new ways of identifying and fixing the worst methane emitters

Abandoned natural gas well

New research finds far more abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania than previously thought and provides a framework for identifying wells across the United States and globally that are the worst methane leakers.

November 14, 2016

Media Contacts

Josie Garthwaite
School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences
(650) 497-0947;

Mark Golden
Precourt Institute for Energy
(650) 724-1629,

Rob Jordan
Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment
(650) 721-1881,

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