Study: Cow Methane Greenhouse Gas Emissions Greater Than Thought

Image: Study: Cow Methane Greenhouse Gas Emissions Greater Than Thought

Wednesday, 27 Nov 2013 04:12 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Methane is responsible for about half the greenhouse gas emissions released in the United States, says Robert Howarth, a biogeochemist and ecosystem scientist at Cornell University, according to the New York Times.
Howarth was reacting to a new scientific report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, which found that the amount of methane – a greenhouse gas – from animal manure and from fossil fuel emissions released into the environment is greater than originally estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to The Register.

The study is significant because while carbon dioxide remains the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities, the comparative impact of the less common methane gas on climate change is 20 times greater than that of carbon monoxide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

In the case of natural gas, methane is emitted during production, processing, storage, transmission, and distribution, while domestic livestock produce large amounts of methane as part of their normal digestive processes, the EPA said.

The new study measured methane in the atmosphere, then used weather data and statistical analysis to trace it back to its source.

The report questioned the "EPA's recent decision to downscale its estimate of national natural gas emissions by 25-30 percent," the scientists wrote.

One implication is that natural gas used to generate electricity is no better for the environment than coal, Howarth said.

He said it was urgent to move quickly "away from using natural gas for water heating and domestic and commercial space heating."

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