New research: Methane emissions from cattle have no detectable effect on climate

“Our main conclusion is that there is no need for anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, let alone livestock-generated emissions, to explain climate change. The climate has always changed, and even current warming is likely driven by natural factors.

The warming potential of anthropogenic GHG emissions has been exaggerated, and the beneficial impacts of CO2 emissions from nature, agriculture and global food security have been systematically suppressed, ignored or at least minimized by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and other UN agencies. UN (United Nations).

Furthermore, we expose important methodological deficiencies in the instructions and applications of the IPCC and the FAO (Food Agriculture Organization) for the quantification of the human-derived part of non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions from agroecosystems.

However, to date, these fatal errors have been inexorably propagated through the scientific literature.

Finally, we could not find a clear fingerprint of domestic livestock, neither in the geographic distribution of methane nor in the historical evolution of the average atmospheric concentration of methane.”

Key points:

  1. “In order to get an effective share of emissions from managed ecosystems, it is necessary to subtract baseline emissions from the respective native ecosystems or ecosystems pre-managed by climate change from those of today's agroecosystems. The omission of this correction leads to a systematic overestimation of non-CO2 GHG emissions generated on rural properties.

Scientific publications generally do not take this into account, as farm-born CH4 and N2O emissions are consistently interpreted at a 100% level as an anthropogenic source of additional GHG, as is CO2 generated by fossil fuel. As the aforementioned IPCC [2007] guidelines are taken as the ultimate reference, this severe methodological deficiency has spread through the scientific literature”.

  1. “Manure patches concentrate nitrogen ingested from places scattered across the pasture. Nichols et al. [2016] found no significant differences between the emission factors of the fragments and the rest of the pasture, meaning that the same amount of nitrous oxide is emitted, regardless of whether the forage passes through the intestines of the cattle or not. However, the IPCC and FAO erroneously consider that all the nitrous oxide that leaks from manure is generated by livestock and therefore produced by man.”
  2. “Between 1990 and 2005, the world's livestock population increased by more than 100 million head (according to FAO statistics). During this time, the atmospheric concentration of methane completely stabilized. These empirical observations show that livestock is not a significant player in the global methane budget [Glatzle, 2014]. This assessment was corroborated by Schwietzke et al. [2016], who suggested that methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry and natural geological seepage were 60-110% higher than previously thought. ”
  3. “When looking at the global distribution of mean methane concentrations as measured by ENVISAT (Environmental Satellite) [Schneising et al., 2009] and the geographic distribution of domestic livestock density, respectively [Steinfeld et al., 2006], it was not found a relationship between the two criteria [Glatzle, 2014]. ”
  4. “While the most recent estimates of annual methane emissions from livestock were 11% higher than previous estimates [Wolf et al., 2017], we still cannot see any visible fingerprints on the global distribution of methane.
  5. “The idea of a sizable contribution from livestock to the global methane budget depends on bottom-up theoretical calculations. Even in recent studies, for example [Mapfumo et al., 2018], only emissions per animal are measured and multiplied by the number of animals. Ecosystem interactions and baselines across time and space are often ignored [Glatzle, 2014]. Although a large number of publications, such as the most recent excellent report by the FCRN (Food Climate Research Network) [2017], extensively discuss ecosystem sequestration potentials and natural sources of GHGs, they do not consider the baseline emissions of the respective native ecosystems when assessing human-generated non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions from managed ecosystems. This implies a systematic overestimation of the warming potential, particularly when considerable climate sensitivity to GHG emissions is assumed”.
  6. “We couldn't find a fingerprint of the domestic herd in either the geographic distribution of methane or the historical evolution of atmospheric methane concentration. Consequently, in science, politics and the media, the climate impact of anthropogenic GHG emissions has been systematically overestimated. GHG emissions from livestock have been interpreted mainly in isolation from their ecosystem context, ignoring their negligible significance within the global balance. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that domestic livestock could pose a risk to the Earth's climate.”
  7. “[E]ven LA Chefs Column from LA [Zwick, 2018], despite assuming a large impact of methane on global warming, came to the conclusion: 'When methane is placed in a broader than reductive context, we all have stop blaming livestock ('cows') for climate change. '”


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