Friday, August 17, 2007

Carbon Footprint: Cow Farts

Carbon dioxide is not the only culprit in global warming. There are other gasses responsible for insulating the atmosphere, and some of them could be reduced by curbing meat consumption.

You may not know that the international meat industry produces 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Sure this calculation includes CO2 released in the shipping of feed and stock, feed crop fertilization and farm machinery operation, but you probably did not know that livestock contribute to global warming in an entirely different (if more natural) way. Some of the global warming from farming comes from the methane released by cattle and the nitrous oxide in manure. It seems Ronald Reagan was right about cow farts.
About 30 percent of the methane in the atmosphere results from microbial action in animals' digestive tracts. This prompted Ronald Reagan's dismissive comment that humans couldn't be held accountable for global-warming gases (of which methane is the most potent), because the most significant source is bovine flatulence.

As contemporary critics noted, however, Reagan overlooked the fact that animal husbandry has vastly increased the number of cattle, making cow farts very much a human-influenced commodity.
Methane has a warming effect 23 times as great as that of carbon, while nitrous oxide is 296 times as great. So not only is reducing meat consumption better for the average American's health, good for watersheds and important for balancing grain for human consumption with feed for animals, it reduces the demand for flatulence-prone livestock.

1 comment:

Ken L. Hagler said...

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for helping me with the insights. You do a real good job of explaining science in a way the rest of us can understand!

Keep up the great work!