Scenarios of methane emission reductions to 2030: abatement costs and co-benefits to ozone air quality and human mortality
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- West, J.J., Fiore, A.M. & Horowitz, L.W. Climatic Change (2012) 114: 441. doi:10.1007/s10584-012-0426-4
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Methane emissions contribute to global baseline surface ozone concentrations; therefore reducing methane to address climate change has significant co-benefits for air quality and human health. We analyze the costs of reducing methane from 2005 to 2030, as might be motivated to reduce climate forcing, and the resulting benefits from lower surface ozone to 2060. We construct three plausible scenarios of methane emission reductions, relative to a base scenario, ranging from 75 to 180 Mton CH4 yr−1 decreased in 2030. Using compilations of the global availability of methane emission reductions, the least aggressive scenario (A) does not incur any positive marginal costs to 2030, while the most aggressive (C) requires discovery of new methane abatement technologies. The present value of implementation costs for Scenario B are nearly equal to Scenario A, as it implements cost-saving options more quickly, even though it adopts positive cost measures. We estimate the avoided premature human mortalities due to surface ozone decreases by combining transient full-chemistry simulations of these scenarios in a global atmospheric chemical transport model, with concentration-mortality relationships from a short-term epidemiologic study and projected global population. An estimated 38,000 premature mortalities are avoided globally in 2030 under Scenario B. As benefits of methane reduction are positive but costs are negative for Scenario A, it is justified regardless of how avoided mortalities are valued. The incremental benefits of Scenario B also far outweigh the incremental costs. Scenario C has incremental costs that roughly equal benefits, only when technological learning is assumed. Benefits within industrialized nations alone also exceed costs in Scenarios A and B, assuming that the lowest-cost emission reductions, including those in developing nations, are implemented. Monetized co-benefits of methane mitigation for human health are estimated to be $13–17 per ton CO2eq, with a wider range possible under alternative assumptions. Methane mitigation can be a cost-effective means of long-term and international air quality management, with concurrent benefits for climate.