Scientists Shook by Incredible Climate Change Discovery

Our worst global enemy at this point consists of the incredible climate change effects that do not seize to affect our planet. Scientists indicate that a new study helped them discover something new related to global warming effects and greenhouse gas emissions. They knew that methane emissions from cows prove to have a great impact on the increased amount of methane emissions.

We all know how fast can methane contribute to a global accumulation of heat, triggering more global warming effects. Specialists say that the 100-year methane’s global warming potential is 28. Therefore, this dangerous greenhouse gas traps 28 times more heat per mass unit compared to carbon dioxide’s effects over a 100-year timespan.

However, specialists indicate that a new study helped them reveal that cow flatulence has an even greater impact on climate change than they had previously thought. The results of the new study were published in the Carbon Balance and Management magazine. Researchers indicate that their previous calculations regarding methane emissions coming from livestock were completely off.

Their previous estimates left out about 11% of methane emissions from livestock. Specialists explain that cows naturally produce methane since their gut microbes break down all the vegetation they ingest. Therefore, we all know that methane emissions represent a great threat since they increase the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

Methane traps the heat coming from the sun, warming up the planet and triggering a greater increase in temperatures around the globe. However, the biggest contribution to greenhouse gas emissions consists of carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is the main culprit when it comes to severe climate change effects. Nevertheless, experts explain that methane is much more dangerous since it is more effective to trap the heat.

Incredible climate change discovery

NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System research initiative sponsored this new project. Hence, scientists indicated that previous estimates regarding cow methane emissions were not as accurate as the new ones. The correct figure they had published in 2011 should have been 11% higher than the estimates they offered to the public.

Specialists claim that global methane emissions coming from the farming and agriculture industry are way greater than estimated in the past. Scientists claim that they had out-of-date information regarding carbon emissions coming from livestock. In a new project developed by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Carbon Monitoring System research initiative, researchers made a discovery.

Scientists from the Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI) revealed that global livestock methane emissions for the study in 2011 should have been 11% higher than they stated. Back then, the estimates relying on the guidelines provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2006 were wrong.

This finding accounts for an 8.4% increase in methane due to cow flatulence from dairy cows and other cattle. Furthermore, this also accounts for a 36.7% increase in manure management methane, being different from IPCC-based estimates. Therefore, the revised calculations for manure management methane emissions for 2011 indicated a 71.8% increase compared to the estimates made by IPCC.

Seven brown cows on a field

Dairy cows emit methane gas through their flatulence due to the ingestion of different green plants.

Scientists confess the previous methane emissions estimates were wrong

Dr. Julie Wolf from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the senior author of the study. She indicates that they noticed a significant change in livestock numbers at a global level. Furthermore, breeding processes triggered the occurrence of larger animals which obviously have greater intakes of food.

Wolf indicates that this together with the livestock management changes can trigger even great methane emissions. Methane poses a great threat regarding climate change effects because it is a significant moderator of our atmospheric temperature. Specialists indicate that methane gas the four times the atmospheric warming potential of CO2.

The disadvantage is that there are no direct measurements of methane emissions coming from all sources of methane. Therefore, scientists report these emissions as estimates, relying on different assumptions and methods. The new study helped them calculate per-animal methane emissions factors. Hence, they measured the average amount of methane gas released by animals into the atmosphere.

Furthermore, they also created new estimates regarding the global livestock methane emissions. The authors of the new study reanalyzed the information used to calculate IPCC 2006 CH4 emission factors coming from dairy cows. They have also examined the manure management from swine, dairy cows, and other cattle. The results indicated that estimated livestock methane emissions need to be revised considering the current emissions factors.

Methane emissions coming from livestock are dangerous

Therefore, there were larger emissions estimated than the previous IPCC calculations indicated for most regions, irrespective of the fact that emission estimates varied by region. Dr. Ghassem Asrar is the co-author of the study and the director of JGCRI. He indicated that besides the variabilities spotted among global regions, scientists also revealed differences in trends in methane emissions over recent decades.

For instance, researchers indicated that methane emissions coming from all livestock massively increased in developing regions in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. However, the increases in methane gas emissions in Canada and the US were less dangerous. Furthermore, the study indicated a slight decrease in livestock methane emissions in Western Europe.

Arar claimed that the largest increases in annual methane emissions were over the northern tropics, being closely followed by the southern tropics. Scientists also say that the estimates introduced in the new study appear to be 15% bigger compared to global estimates brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, the estimates are slightly decreased compared to the ones offered by the EPA for the US.

Furthermore, the new estimates are 4% bigger than the global estimated from the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) and 3% larger compared to EDGAR estimates for the U.S. One of the important ideas here is that bot EDGAR and EPA used the data coming from the IPCC 2006 study as default data. Therefore, these estimates contributed to their mistakes in calculations.

Summing up

The incredible climate change discovery indicates one more time that scientists can go wrong, too. The end may be nearer than we may expect it. Policymakers should take drastic measures to protect this fragile planet which barely breathes. We all need to contribute to a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions to be able to imagine a better future.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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