Aw, c’mon, pull my finger!
You’ve probably had that one pulled (pardon the pun) on you at least once in your life, and the old guy got a good laugh out of your response. It’s ok, old guys do strange things, I know.
Well, this isn’t about old guys, but sheep, cattle, deer and goats, the premier emitters of methane gas in the world. In this case, nature is “pulling the finger.”
For New Zealand, according to the Telegraph, its 45 million sheep and 10 million cattle are responsible for more than half of that nation’s methane emissions. That’s a lot of burping and farting, but the country is trying to meet the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
Don’t laugh, to New Zealand’s government this is serious stuff, so serious that an animal “flatulence tax” may be imposed on farmers. They’ve reportedly shown their disapproval by sending parcels of manure to members of parliament.
Estonians, meanwhile, have just lifted a tax on cattle methane emissions. Farms housing more than 300 cows or 2000 pigs would have been assessed an annual tax of about $5000 each. Protests have halted that action, at least for the time being. It’s said that cattle account for 18% of that country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Science To The Rescue!
According to Phil Goff, New Zealand’s trade minister, scientists in that country have mapped the genome that causes methane in ruminant animals. That, he says, can lead to a vaccine that would turn off the fart switch and reduce greenhouse gasses.
It may be a while, but Goff told an Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development meeting in Paris that a solution to the problem was in sight.
Scientists in Australia have reportedly developed a burp vaccine that acts against the archaean microbes that produce methane in sheep rumens. It was apparently somewhat successful.
Is There a Future for a Flatulence Shot?
In the U.S., it’s reported that about 2 percent of this country’s methane emissions come from livestock. Research is continuing on altering an animals diet, and changing the way fertilizers are used where livestock graze. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) outlines methane emissions from all sources on their website.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says scientists estimate livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
Shots of the kind proposed by New Zealand scientists could make a big impact on greenhouse gasses, especially in smaller countries with large amounts of domestic and wild ruminants.
Do Humans Add to Greenhouse Emissions?
Of course you know, as long as we depend on livestock for the major portion of our protein and other nutritional needs, we add to greenhouse gas numbers by merely sitting down to a steak, or some bacon and eggs. I suspect, however, the steak will win out, after all we’re paying record amounts for gasoline and we’re still driving our gas guzzlers every day, adding even more pollutants to the air we breathe.
And then, maybe we might look at insects as a possibility. If you haven’t read my recent post, take a look.
Well, just thought you’d like to know that help may be on the way for those countries awash in livestock-emitted methane, and maybe, someday, for humans too. No, our “gas” emissions are small in comparison, and only a minor irritant if you happen to be downwind of someone with a problem.
Mother earth has her own way of belching methane, something that’s caused some severe changes in the planet’s weather. Read Joshua S Hill’s blog; Methane Could Kick-Start Increased Warming“.
Image Credit: http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y231/graceville/rms_livestock2.jpg