James K. Hammitt
Daniel J. Jacob
Meghan L. O'Sullivan
Forest L. Reinhardt
John P. Holdren
Richard J. Lazarus
Steven C. Wofsy
An End-to-End, Collaborative Strategy to Reduce Global Methane Emissions: Science, Engineering, Economics, Business, Policy, Law, Politics, Communications, and Action
Methane has a short atmospheric lifetime and very high global warming potential, compared with carbon dioxide (CO2). Therefore, although the absolute quantities of human-caused methane emissions are much less than those of CO2, methane-emissions abatement can significantly reduce concentrations, temperature, and damages, particularly in the short term. This would give the world time to “bend the curve” on CO2 emissions, conduct research on carbon removal, and, more generally, to implement longer-term strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
The goal of this Climate Research Cluster is to achieve meaningful and sustained progress in methane emissions reductions through research and effective engagement with key stakeholders. More specifically, the Cluster seeks to deliver information that will facilitate the design and implementation of new and existing methane-emission-reduction policies and programs.
To achieve that goal, the Cluster will conduct research, policy outreach, and public engagement along eight tracks: 1) building on satellite-based measurement and attribution of emissions; 2) identifying technologies that might best reduce emissions; 3) applying insights from economic research and the related discipline of decision science to design policies that might best contribute to methane-emissions reduction; 4) identifying legal and regulatory opportunities for and constraints to methane emissions reduction; 5) defining and addressing key political issues constraining attempts to reduce methane emissions; 6) defining roles that business can play in reducing methane emissions; 7) identifying key international and multilateral opportunities for and constraints to reducing methane emissions; and 8) undertaking a historical examination of economic activities that result in methane emissions. The initiative will endeavor at every stage to facilitate frequent interaction among researchers in each track, to build on synergies, advance cross-disciplinary understanding, and catalyze action.
Moreover, the research team is engaging policymakers in government and key leaders in business, nongovernmental organizations, and international organizations to translate science into action. The engagement is intended to create a two-way communication with policymakers and key constituencies and stakeholders, in a manner that translates into specific actions to reduce emissions. The engagement process entails consultations with government officials and leading stakeholders at the international, regional, national, and sub-national levels.
Faculty involved in this work are also focusing on translating their research into useful materials, such as videos and written briefs, which can be used by climate practitioners in the public and non-profit sectors to design and implement new emission-reduction strategies. Through targeted work with business leaders, this effort will extend to inform emissions reduction practices in target industries.
This research team brings together the work of seventeen different research groups from across Harvard University, including four departments in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (Earth and Planetary Science, Economics, Government, and History) and five professional schools (Business, Engineering, Government, Law, and Public Health). Thus, the faculty involved are approaching methane-emissions research from a range of disciplinary lenses, including those of science, engineering, economics, political science, law, business, history, and policy studies, producing a comprehensive approach. By communicating and collaborating across research teams, the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts, producing a more holistic approach to policy solutions.
start your cluster project
With the new Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability, Harvard University is mobilizing to meet the global climate challenge.