Who could imagine that cow farts could just destroy the entire planet? This looks like a Douglas Adam’s story, but is partly true. However, the answer for this polemic question is not so simple and the Hourglass team will explain to you why.
Cow’s farts and climate change
The most important thing to understand in this case is that there are 4 main gases in global warming: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and sulfur hexafluoride.
Why do these gases contribute so much to climate change? Because they have a super power to accumulate heat in them.
Here, we’re going to focus on methane. Methane is a natural and flammable gas. This gas has several origins, such as:
- – Coal mines
- – Geological faults (since there is a lot of methane in the earth’s core)
- – Erupting volcanoes
- – Process of decomposition of living beings
- – Digestion process
Yes, what you read is correct. The digestion process of many animals, including humans, generates methane. Your fart has methane too.
What is the role of cows in the greenhouse effect?
Although many animals are methane producers in their digestive processes, cows make an extra contribution to this process.
That’s because cows have 4 stomachs in their body. That’s 4 times more methane in the atmosphere every time a cow farts.
Just to give you an idea, a single cow has the capacity to produce up to 200 kg of methane each year. Under natural conditions, the ruminant lives from 15 to 20 years. That is, we are talking about something between 3 to 4 tons of methane per cow.
Things get worse when we understand that gas is much more powerful than others. On a 20-year scale, the warming effect of methane on the environment is 84 times greater than the effect of carbon.
The livestock problem: the monumental impact of cow farts
The big problem is not the existence of the cow, after all, they have been around for thousands of years, having been domesticated 10,500 years ago in the Fertile Crescent region.
The problem is that today’s society revolves around the cow. The sealable cows, such a fundamental part of the diet that the species at unsustainable levels
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 2006 the world herd was already composed of 1.22 billion cattle.
In countries like Brazil, a major exporter of meat to the world, there were 218 million cutting jobs. At the same time, the population of Brazil was 208 million people.
Just considering this country, which is not the biggest meat producer in the world, there are already 43 billion tons of methane every year.
This type of problem exposes the problem of excessive consumption of meat and milk, widely warned by the vegan community. Furthermore, it shows how individual decisions do not have a big impact on the global problem.
After all, what difference does it make you to stop eating meat if there is an industry producing tons of methane daily?
Of course, all help is needed, but to solve the problem, collective action is needed, involving all nations and producing farms to ensure minimum methane emissions in the production chain the real contribution of methane and carbon on global warming
Global warming methane sources – much beyond cow farts
There is much that can be done to reduce global methane emissions.
Anyone who believes that the problem is just caused by the cow’s fart is completely wrong.
Yes, livestock has a great responsibility in this, but it is not alone.
In the case of livestock, a feed adjustment may simply cause the animals to release less methane.
Even thyme and oregano essential oils can reduce methane in animals, according to research from the University of São Paulo (Brazil)
But the cows are not alone in this: fossil fuels are responsible for about 35% of gas emissions.
Fuel burn reductions are the ones that can be implemented most easily and at a very low cost.
For example, it is possible to implement better methane detectors and identify methane leaks in mines as soon as possible.
Another contributing factor is garbage. Landfills, where waste is simply left to collect, are responsible for 20% of carbon emissions.
Recycling and composting strategies can help prevent these places from turning into methane-emitting super-monsters, and there are measures to reduce the damage already done, such as capturing or even flaring the gas.
What’s the percentage of methane in global warming?
According to a UN report, methane represents 11% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in the year 2020.
Of all the methane released into the atmosphere, 40% comes from agriculture, according to a report published on the website Let’s Talk Science.
Of course, any reduction is useful in the situation we find ourselves in, because every degree counts, but it’s important to remember that the big changes we can cause are not in methane, but in carbon dioxide.
According to the IPCC (International Pannel on Climate Change), the percentage of each greenhouse gas shows where the biggest problem is, as you can see in the chart below:
76% — carbon dioxide
16% — methane
6% — Nitrous Oxide
2% — other GHGs