Yes we can! Eco bit 1: suppressing the methane belch

This is the first in a series of things we can do to save our environment, and maybe even human life and our planet.  Some of the things are what we as individuals can do, some which can be implemented by inventors and business, some by government.

Rather than start out with the obvious – we’ll get to them eventually – this post begins with the ingenious.  It may even sound like starting with the ridiculous, but it isn’t.

Cows are Like Cars When It Comes to Greenhouse Gases

5% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the belches of cows.  The emissions aren’t carbon, but methane, which is even worse in terms of its contribution to global warming.  22 times worse actually. 

One obvious way to reduce these methane emissions is for each of us to eat less beef and fewer dairy products like milk and cheese.  Apart from the fact that there are 1.5 billion cows around the world, and that they make a critical contribution to our nutrition, cows are sacred in some countries, and so this strategy isn’t apt to be highly effective in the grand scale of things.

Both scientists and government, however, are seriously working on the problem.  In New Zealand, the government is taxing flatulence, and the EU is thinking of doing the same.  In Denmark, the government is subsidizing the production of  biogas from animal waste.  And scientists in Britain and Japan are experimenting with feeding cattle young grass, garlic extracts, fish, and simple food additives (nitrates and the amino acid cysteine, if you want to know) which they think can eliminate the methane belch.   The Japanese think that at the cost of about $180 per head of cattle per year, they can  reduce cattles’ methane emissions by 95%. 

It seems like it’s worth it to me.


About Terry Sissons

Terry Sissons is the author of The Big Bang to Now: All of Time in Six Chunks, and this blog is a dialogue about the universe and what’s happened in the last 13 billions years.
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