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Opinion
Amanda Little

To Curb Methane, Put Cows on a Diet

The behemoth U.S. livestock industry produces more of the potent greenhouse gas than the energy industry, and with a bigger push from the Biden administration, can do more faster to curb climate change with less economic impact.

Cows are a better place to start than oil wells in curbing methane.

Cows are a better place to start than oil wells in curbing methane.

Source: Bloomberg

Much was made of methane at COP26 in Glasgow this week. More than 100 countries signed on to the Global Methane Pledge advanced by the Biden administration, which calls for slashing this potent greenhouse gas by 30% in less than a decade. Some critics dismissed the pact as a non-binding frivolity, while others including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, applauded methane cuts. It's “one of the most effective things we can do to reduce near-term global warming and keep 1.5 degrees Celsius,” she said. “It is the lowest-hanging fruit.”

President Joe Biden’s focus on voluntary reductions is, in fact, more consequential than it may seem. It's a creative way to get big results fast with little economic impact, and it brings agriculture to the table in an important way for the first time at a United Nations Climate Change Conference. Yet Biden’s war on methane is missing key components — most notably, nitrous oxide, another overlooked greenhouse gas that’s as much as 15 times more potent than methane.