Researchers found that they have underestimated the impact of belching livestock on the climate. Cows have been accused of making global warming worse for years because they release a potent greenhouse warming gas – methane – through biological processes.
But the issue has been controversial since some scientists placed the blame on fracking operations and agriculture for the uptick in the warming agent in recent years.
However, a new research paper insists that cows are to blame and scientists have been wrong about their impact on the environment. Three scholars from the Joint Global Change Research Institute are finger-pointing cattle for the mess.
Lead author Julie Wolf said that recalculations showed that cows’ methane emissions were 11 percent worse last year than originally estimated. Wolf admitted that while livestock may not be the major contributor on an annual basis, it is certainly the main contributor to the methane buildup in the atmosphere in recent years.
Cows and their ruminant sisters generate methane via a biological process called “enteric fermentation”. The chemistry in these animals’ stomachs leads to an additional release of methane through belching or farting.
Cows’ Waste a Major Issue Too
On top of that, ruminants’ waste is also a major source of atmospheric methane, scientists claim. So, authorities and farmers should join forces for a better manure management.
Study authors suggest the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s rules on how to estimate methane emissions be adjusted accordingly because of improper estimates of livestock seize and manure management.
Scientists found that methane emissions from cows’ farts and burping were 8.4 percent higher in 2011 than originally calculated. Researchers also miscalculated manure management emissions by 36.7 percent.
Wolf explained that in most cases livestock was more productive and larger than estimated. So, the animals likely emitted more methane than scientists originally thought.
The study appeared in the journal Carbon Balance and Management.
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