An astonishing new study suggests that cow farts may play a much bigger role in the warming of our planet than we thought possible.
We may laugh at the notion of methane emissions caused by cow farts being a major contributor the dangerous warming of our planet, but a new study suggests their impact could be much greater than we believed. New research suggests that estimates of methane emissions from livestock may have been off by about 10 percent, a huge figure that could affect how we calculate what sources cause how much warming.
Cows produce methane as a natural byproduct of their digestion. Methane is a big part of the so-called “greenhouse effect,” in which the atmosphere traps more of the sun’s heat instead of reflecting it back into space, causing our Earth to heat up like an oven. Carbon dioxide gets the most blame for this, but methane is way better than CO2 at trapping heat.
The findings were published in the journal Carbon Balance and Management. As for what can be done about this, or how it changes our calculations in dealing with global warming and climate change, that’s yet to be determined.
“In a project sponsored by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Carbon Monitoring System research initiative, researchers from the Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI) found that global livestock methane (CH4) emissions for 2011 are 11% higher than the estimates based on guidelines provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2006,” reads a statement from Biomed Central. “This encompasses an 8.4% increase in CH4 from enteric fermentation (digestion) in dairy cows and other cattle and a 36.7% increase in manure management CH4 compared to IPCC-based estimates. Revised manure management CH4 emissions estimates for 2011 in the US from this study were 71.8% higher than IPPC-based estimates.”
Dr. Julie Wolf, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), senior author of the study, said in the statement: “In many regions of the world, livestock numbers are changing, and breeding has resulted in larger animals with higher intakes of food. This, along with changes in livestock management, can lead to higher methane emissions. Methane is an important moderator of the Earth’s atmospheric temperature.”