Global Flatulance

Stumbled upon some interesting reading regarding greenhouse gasses and global warming. We have heard a great deal about CO2’s impact on global warming, but there seem to be other culprits as well. One of which, methane, is particularly concerning.

This piece suggests we are “Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in Our Lifetimes”. I read this and considered that it is also fairly accepted as common knowledge that reducing red meat from our diets can have very positive health results. All of this may be very true, but I do so like a good hunk of meat — the rarer the better… cut off it’s horns, blow its nose and bring it out. Did I mention that a coworker found himself in the hospital last Wednesday evening after having a heart attack? Yep, only a couple years older than I. Can you sense that it has me thinking?

So, here I sit noodling over the impact that changing my diet would have on my personal health and I am now aware of the possible ancillary benefit it could have on the planet itself. Should I need any more motivation?

Methane is responsible for nearly as much global warming as all other non-CO2 greenhouse gases put together. Methane is 21 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2. While atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have risen by about 31% since pre-industrial times, methane concentrations have more than doubled. Whereas human sources of CO2 amount to just 3% of natural emissions, human sources produce one and a half times as much methane as all natural sources. In fact, the effect of our methane emissions may be compounded as methane-induced warming in turn stimulates microbial decay of organic matter in wetlands?the primary natural source of methane.

With methane emissions causing nearly half of the planet?s human-induced warming, methane reduction must be a priority. Methane is produced by a number of sources, including coal mining and landfills?but the number one source worldwide is animal agriculture. Animal agriculture produces more than 100 million tons of methane a year. And this source is on the rise: global meat consumption has increased fivefold in the past fifty years, and shows little sign of abating. About 85% of this methane is produced in the digestive processes of livestock, and while a single cow releases a relatively small amount of methane, the collective effect on the environment of the hundreds of millions of livestock animals worldwide is enormous. An additional 15% of animal agricultural methane emissions are released from the massive ?lagoons? used to store untreated farm animal waste, and already a target of environmentalists? for their role as the number one source of water pollution in the U.S.

The conclusion is simple: arguably the best way to reduce global warming in our lifetimes is to reduce or eliminate our consumption of animal products. Simply by going vegetarian (or, strictly speaking, vegan), , , we can eliminate one of the major sources of emissions of methane, the greenhouse gas responsible for almost half of the global warming impacting the planet today.