A just-published analysis of data received from a satellite in 2004 has shown that at least during that year, livestock in the U.S. emitted more methane into the atmosphere than did the oil and gas industry. In their article published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, a team of researchers from Harvard University, California Institute of Technology and the University of California studying the data note that such emissions were far higher than was reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Specifically, the researchers found satellite data showed livestock emitted 13 million tons of methane over the summer in 2004 (the EPA reported 9.7 million tons). They found the satellite data also showed that the combined emissions of the oil and gas industry amounted to 7 million tons (the EPA reported 9.9 million tons).
Unfortunately the sensor on the satellite was unable to show methane amounts after 2004, thus more data is not available. That will, however, change soon as a new satellite with sophisticated atmospheric gas monitoring sensors aboard is set to launch next year. More information on the role that methane plays in changing our climate can be found here.
Eat less meat?
> Eat less meat?
Also less rice [sciencedaily.com]
And 2004 was before the fracking boom really got started. [salon.com]
If they emit CH4 then CO2 is going to be one of the lesser concerns. All in the name of the almighty profit..
Really? Fine, ruin my favorite food why don't you.
What about other large mammals, such as bison? If we eliminated cattle ranches out in the western U.S. and let the bison herds restore themselves, would the effect be any different?
> If we eliminated cattle ranches out in the western U.S. and let the bison herds restore themselves,
The latter does not follow from the former.
It was a hypothetical and you avoided answering.
Since it would take centuries for the bison herds to "restore themselves" to anywhere near where commercial cattle farming levels are, it is a valueless question. Yes, if bison herds were the same size as commercial cattle herds are now then they would have the same problem. But they are not, were not and will not ever be that size.
Yes, if bison herds were the same size as commercial cattle herds are now then they would have the same problem. But they are not, were not and will not ever be that size.
Huh? Bison ranged across the plains in herds estimated from a total of 50 million on up. I doubt very much you have anything close to the same number of cattle currently in the same area. You couldn't, cattle are very hard on arid range. The numbers of bison have increased from a few dozen animals in the early 20th century when they were nearly wiped out to roughly 500,000 today, with strictly limited range available to them. Eliminate the cattle and the fences, set them free to roam (look up Buffalo Commons) and their population will increase rapidly. Since they are generally more beneficial to the land than cattle, more of them can survive in the same area.
Actually it does. Grasslands evolved to be grazed, and before there were cattle, there were very large numbers of bison doing that grazing (plus other animals, but we'll just consider bison here) -- estimates run from 30 million to as high as 50 million animals.http://www.fws.gov/bisonrange/timeline.htm [fws.gov]
Total inventory of cattle in the U.S. last year was about 87 million animals.http://agebb.missouri.edu/mkt/bull12c.htm [missouri.edu]
Bison average about twice the mass of domestic cattle, and all males in the wild grew to fullsized bulls (cows and steers do not achieve nearly the same mass as bulls, and the vast majority of modern male cattle are castrated). By weight alone, one bison equals 2 to 3 modern steers or cows. So at their native population, there were more pounds of bison present than there now are of cattle.
Also, cattle are about 5% more efficient than bison, so they need to eat less to support the same mass of animal... and better feed utilization means less wasted as methane.http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1456&context=greatplainsresearch [unl.edu]
So if the object is to reduce methane production, the evidence indicates that we had best stick with the current situation and domestic cattle, rather than returning to the native natural situation of a somewhat larger and less-efficient mass of bison.
Forget mammals, look at termites. 20 million ton per year.
Industrial scale "farms" also concentrate manure etc in such quantities that natural processes have a hard time to break them down properly.
Another thing about industrial farms is the use of corn as feed. It fattens up a cow faster than grass and is cheaper. But a cow is not adapted to eating corn and it causes major issues, including the generation of large amounts of methane. Even a cow fed grass generates methane, all mammals and some insects do, but not as much.
If it's not breaking down, it's not generating methane... But the fact is, manure experiences excellent demand as a base for fertilizer (about half the commercial fertilizer starts life as manure, but there's not enough manure to satisfy this market). It gets either used on the farm or trucked off to a fertilizer plant, like Bandini in Los Angeles. Mountains of it? Yeah, between production and being hauled off... Most people have NO idea how much herbivores eat, let alone how much they shit.
Eat more kangaroo! They aren't ruminants so they don't produce methane.
There are actually many more reasons. For example I live in Arizona, and I cannot figure out why people ranch cattle when camels or kangaroos evolved to live in the desert! Well, aside from the demand.
Humans are habit animals. Tend to require starvation or other crisis to make it worthwhile to try new habits.
Produce more oil!
Don't assume that this means cows are a bigger global warming problem than fossil fuels. This article only addresses the methane produced while EXTRACTING the oil and gas, not the CO2 emissions from burning them. I imagine these emissions are orders of magnitude higher, since after all the idea is to capture the gas and oil and sell it, not to let it escape into the atmosphere at the wellhead.
It has nothing to do with global warming because cows are not releasing carbon that has been underground for milions of years.If anybody uses this research to link global warming to cow farts he/she is either clueless or lying.
> It has nothing to do with global warming because cows are not releasing carbon
This is about methane not co2. Methane has a much larger impact on global warming per ton than co2, like orders of magnitude more. But there is much less of it being created too.
The carbon source for the methane still matters.The methane released by cows is part of a short cycle. (a bit more complex than CO2, but methane is still broken down over time).The extra methane comming from fossil fuels is a far bigger problem, it was not part of this short cycle before and the mechanisms breaking down methane will not get rid of it as quick as we are adding it.
Methane has a pretty short half-life before it oxidises to CO2 and water. Either UV catalyzed, or it gets up high enough to react with ozone.Regardless of how much is emitted (excluding something like an ocean clathrate catastrophe) it is effectively gone in twelve years.
Yeah, it's a pretty safe bet that if you backtrack this article you'll find an animal rights or 'earth first' type organization. They excel at lying via statistics.
Will be interesting to see the new numbers when the next satellite is in operation. The new style of fracking deep horizontal gas wells for increased production has all gotten going since 2004--and huge amounts of methane are often released (sometimes flared off) before the new wells are connected to transmission pipelines.
There's also the problems of leaking methane from reticulation systems, pretty much ignored until people started pounding the pavement with sensors.
The grid size of this satellite sensor was huge and is afaik dependant on the accuracy of ground observations for calibration.From reading about it it seems they use a model for mixing of gases to figure out how to plot the concentrations.
What I wonder is how the data is different for, say, me opening a valve on a tank of gas in the middle of a field vs a couple of hundred cows in that field.
There are more than seven billion people on this planet nearly all of whom fart at least once a day. As you get older farting becomes more common. God knows the bout of farting I had last night while trying to sleep rather unsuccessfully released a lot of methane.
Even those who never fart (every woman I've ever known claims to be in that class), the poo processing generates quite a bit of methane, (and Nitrous Oxide and a few other things), and while much lip-service was paid toward energy recovery by methane capture, very few plants do so. And when they do, they burn it for fuel [co2offsetresearch.org], so it all gets released as co2.
CO2 is less damaging then methane, so I suppose that is a net good.
Vegetarians are bad for the planet. They're eating plants that turn co2 to o2 and not eating animals that poison the atmosphere.
I'm eating cows, pigs, and chickens as fast as I can!
and every one of them used already :( I gotta get less of a life and camp here more.
Vast herds of cattle are not the issue. After all, North America had huge herds roaming freely for millennia. Similar herds were in Europe as well. All these produced methane as well with no ill effect on earth's climate.
The above is about methane only. That is not the whole picture.How about all the CO2 that is emitted by burning fossil fuel since the early 19th century?
How about the methane emitted by the hordes of humanity that is occupying the same space as hordes of wildlife did 200 years ago?
/ not talking about my ex
// nope, not at all
/// won't someone think of the, uh, buffalo?