Cows have emerged as major methane emitters with a research indicating that livestock may be the biggest contributor to increases in the atmospheric budget over recent years.
Scientists say their findings could help account for the dramatic upswing in methane emissions over recent years. According to IPCC estimates, methane accounted for about 16% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015. According to the study published in the journal Carbon Balance and Management, actual global methane emissions from livestock are much higher than previous estimates.
The study found the methane emissions in 2011 were 11 percent higher than their projected IPCC estimates. Global methane emissions began to surge in 2007 after flattening in the early 2000s. Scientists point out that while livestock is not the biggest contributor to the annual methane budget in the atmosphere, it may be the biggest contributor to increases in the atmospheric budget over recent years.
Carbon dioxide—produced mainly by the burning of fossil fuels—accounts for more than three-quarters of planet-warming emissions.
“As our diets become more meat- and dairy-rich, so the hidden climate cost of our food tends to mount up,” said professor Dave Reay from the University of Edinburgh reacting to the study. “Cows belching less methane may not be as eye-catching as wind turbines and solar panels, but they are just as vital for addressing climate change.”