Cows, Climate and Reality

Here’s the scary bit.

Ruminants (cows and sheep) fart and burp out Methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas many times more potent than Carbon Dioxide. Eighty six times more potent over a twenty year period. Thirty four times more potent over a hundred year period.

All of the above is true. Really!

But here's the rub.

Methane vented into the atmosphere is gone within nine years (somewhere between 8.75 and 9.5 actually – See Here ). It reacts (mainly) with hydroxyl radicals in the atmosphere to produce Water Vapour, Carbon Dioxide and Ozone.

So initially the greenhouse effect of Methane is stupendously high. But this is for a very, very short time. As the first few days turn into months the quantity of methane in the atmosphere from a release falls off a cliff. It literally disappears.

The greenhouse warming from a Methane release between years 9 - 100 in a 100 year period following a release is effectively nil. It is nil because there is none left 9 years after a release.

Methane decays in the atmosphere exponentially. Half of any release is gone in 14 months.

The net effect of a release of methane into the atmosphere is pretty much immediate and short lived.

The overall amount of Methane in the atmosphere linearly tracks the amount being released. Double the amount released – double the net amount in the atmosphere. Half the amount released then you halve it.

Assume you had a new continuous source releasing methane into the atmosphere. Then the amount of methane in the atmosphere would initially rise. Then it would level off as the newly released methane reached equilibrium with that decaying away.

After about two half-lives (say 2.5 years) the amount of methane in the atmosphere from your continuous and constant release will level off and stay constant.

Let's say our source of methane is ruminants like cattle and sheep.

It is true that cattle and sheep produce a lot of methane. 

But more to the point, they always have

They in effect provide a continuous and constant release of Methane into the atmosphere.

Unless the population size of these ruminants is changing then the amount of methane in the atmosphere from them will stay the same. It will be stable.

As methane has almost an immediate effect on global warming then that effect will already be evident and fully factored in today. There is no “build up” or appreciable time lag. 

If there is no further increase in total herd size then no further warming can be attributed to cattle or sheep.

Not convinced?

Here - try this latest piece of research from the British Veterinary Association. In fact their research shows that Methane release from UK sheep and cattle is actually falling. 

If it is falling then so is the established warming effect already in place from these ruminants.

The result is UK beef and sheep farms are already global warming negative. Their current activities are cooling the climate. 

If you don't believe me just read the British Veterinary Association article.

The world really is becoming a much better place. But to keep this progress on track and tackle the real issues regarding climate and pollution we need to bury the fear-mongering. 

Fakery like the current fiction that UK beef production is a terrible global warmer really does a disservice to us all.

(Don’t believe me the world is getting better? Read Factfulness by Hans Rosling – It’ll make your day) 

So whenever you see some spoilt child from Extinction Rebellion blubbering about how meat eaters have stolen their future, just tell them to lighten up and stop snivelling.

Then offer to buy them a burger.

You never know. It might work!

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