Cows gas the planet

Curious Cows

It’s worse than we thought. A new study showed that livestock cause the emission of even more methane than previously thought. Methane is a greenhouse gas 30 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Previous estimates of the global livestock industry’s methane production had been underestimating their total output, according to a new study by the Joint Global Change Research Institute.

Cows, in particular, are potent methane producers. Cows produce between 250 and 500 liters of methane every day. That’s a lot of gas! The number of livestock in the world keeps rising and livestock is grown to a larger size than before, all to meet the growing worldwide demand for meat and dairy products. A sharp rise in methane pollution could jeopardize the goals enshrined in the 196-nation Paris Climate Resolution, a consortium of 81 scientists warned in December last year. “Such a target will become increasingly difficult if reductions in methane emissions are not also addressed strongly and rapidly,” according to scientists at the Joint Global Change Research Institute.

However, several researchers have suggested a solution for reducing the methane emissions. Research, led by scientists at the Oxford Martin School, found that widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet would bring down methane emissions by 63 percent. The climate change impacts of animal agriculture will require more than just technological changes. We simply have to give up eating meat if we are to inhabit a sustainable planet.

Don’t look for government regulations to help solve the problem. The Congress, led by both parties, has time and again renewed the provision that prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from requiring emission reports from livestock producers, despite the fact that the EPA has termed such reports as “essential in guiding the steps we take to address the problem of climate change.”

However, this is one problem we can solve on our own. Not just cows, but also other livestock produce their share of methane. By all of us choosing a vegetarian, or better yet a vegan diet, the demand for animal foods, and therefore the number of livestock will go down and with it a big part of global warming. We can’t afford to wait.

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