Agricultural Methane Emissions and the Potential for Mitigation

Pete Smith* (Corresponding Author), Dave Reay, Joanne Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


Agriculture is the largest anthropogenic source of methane (CH 4), emitting 145 Tg CH 4 y -1 to the atmosphere in 2017. The main sources are enteric fermentation, manure management, rice cultivation and residue burning. There is significant potential to reduce CH 4 from these sources, with bottom-up mitigation potentials of approximately 10.6, 10, 2 and 1 Tg CH 4 y -1 from rice management, enteric fermentation, manure management and residue burning. Other system-wide studies have assumed even higher potentials of 4.8-47.2 Tg CH 4 y -1 from reduced enteric fermentation, and 4-36 Tg CH 4 y -1 from improved rice management. Biogas (a methane-rich gas mixture generated from the anaerobic decomposition of organic matter and used for energy) also has the potential to reduce unabated CH 4 emissions from animal manures and human waste. In addition to these supply side measures, interventions on the demand-side (shift to a plant-based diet and a reduction in total food loss and waste by 2050) would also significantly reduce methane emissions, perhaps in the order of greater than 50 Tg CH 4 y -1. While there is a pressing need to reduce emissions of long-lived greenhouse gases (CO 2 and N 2 O) due to their persistence in the atmosphere, despite CH 4 being a short-lived greenhouse gas, the urgency of reducing warming means we must reduce any GHG emissions we can as soon as possible. Because of this, mitigation actions should focus on reducing emissions of all the three main anthropogenic greenhouse gases, including CH 4. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue 'Rising methane: is warming feeding warming? (part1)'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20200451
Number of pages16
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical & Engineering Sciences
Issue number2210
Early online date27 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The input of P.S. contributes to projects DEVIL (grant no. NE/M021327/1) and Soils-R-GRREAT (grant no. NE/P019455/1).


  • Methane
  • agriculture
  • mitigation
  • greenhouse gasses
  • emissions


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