Bovine gas: the leader in global climate change

By Abigail-Lauren Meredith, News Editor –

Animal agriculture is a leading cause in global climate change. In fact, some

might argue that agribusiness is doing more harm to our environment than any other

human activity. Why then, is this topic not more discussed?

Possibly because the animal agricultural business is a $547 billion dollar

industry. It is not given the appropriate attention because that would mean we would

have to accept that our way of living is killing the environment and plumping our wallets.

The fact is that agricultural business affects our lives in various ways every day.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), global agriculture

(dominated by livestock and grain production) is directly responsible for 30% of

greenhouse gas emissions.

Another study done by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization

(FAO) discovered that 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be directly

attributed to livestock.

Livestock produce two major greenhouse gases: methane and nitrous oxide.

While carbon dioxide emissions are dangerous, they pale in comparison in to the

damage done by methane.

For those who are still having trouble believing that bovine gas (cow farts) is

killing the environment here are some facts:

* Methane gas is 21 times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

* A single cow can produce up to 132 gallons of methane gas a day. This may

not sound like a lot, but there are approximately 1.5 billion cows around the world, which

means almost 150 billion gallons of methane gas is produced every day. In 2008,

scientists from California found that the US is dumping 49 million gallons of methane

gas annually into the atmosphere via livestock.

* Nitrous oxide’s global warming potential is 296 times than that of carbon dioxide

and can stay in the atmosphere for 150 years. The FAO reported in 2006 that livestock

produced 65% of all greenhouse gas emissions of nitrous oxide.

So if we know that methane and nitrous oxide are more dangerous to the

environment than carbon dioxide and we know that a large source of methane and

nitrous oxide emissions is animal agriculture, then why has little to no change been

done to curb emissions?

The answer is simple: money. The animal agriculture businesses produces $547

billion dollars annually and any changes made might impact this amount.

The few national policies that mention animal agriculture as a contributor to

global climate change are massive failures.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Building Blocks for Climate Smart

Agriculture & Forestry” climate plan was designed to help farmers, ranchers, and

industries respond to climate change, not seek to change it. The plan does not address

greenhouse gas emissions from livestock and relies on farmers, ranchers, and

industries to voluntarily make changes. I

. The climate action plan does not list agricultural business as a major contributor

to global climate change. The plan fails to mention many impacts caused by agricultural

business, such as the fact that carbon dioxide emissions largely come from the

production of meat and dairy products.

In addition, a USDA spokesman indicated that they do not have enough research

and knowledge of practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or the impact that

such practices might have on the producer.


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