The animal agriculture industry is one of the world’s largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, but there are innovative solutions in the pipeline to reduce this impact.
Around the world scientists, farmers and policy-makers are endeavouring to reduce livestock emissions, with solutions ranging from alternative feedstock and bioengineered grass to breeding programs focused on ‘climate-friendly’ animals.
Cow, sheep and other livestock emissions (from flatulence, belches and dung) are an enormous source of greenhouse gas emissions. It’s estimated that livestock emit 14.5% of all greenhouse gases globally, whilst in Australia the emissions from our cattle and sheep equates to around 55 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually.
The primary reason for this is that the livestock emits methane, which has a much larger short-term climate impact than most other greenhouse gases. Methane traps solar heat around 28 times more effectively than carbon dioxide, therefore heating our atmosphere at a much faster rate.
One relatively uninvasive method to reduce livestock emissions being investigated in Australia is replacing some parts of traditional feedstock with seaweed, which inhibits gas-producing enzymes in the gut. In 2016 one study found including 2% red seaweed in cow’s feed could cut methane emissions by over 90%.
In New Zealand, scientists at the Invermay Agricultural Centre have bred climate-friendly sheep that produce 10% less methane than the average. Researchers identified natural variance in the methane production of certain animals and bred these together over 3 generations to achieve the result. They estimate further gains could be made over time.
Bioengineered ‘super grass’ is another solution being explored by scientists from Aarhus University in Denmark. They are investigating whether particular DNA in grass fodder could be engineered to yield less gas build up in the gut.
These innovative solutions could help reduce the impact of animal agriculture on greenhouse gas emissions, but ultimately the best action to take is to reduce our meat consumption. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report in October recommending transitioning towards a plant-based diet and eating less meat as a key measure for mitigating climate change.
So until some of these innovations come to fruition, best to load up on the veggies!
- If you are concerned about the impact of animal agriculture on climate change and our environment, the simplest and most effective action you can take is to eat less meat.
- Be responsible with your food waste, check Recycling Near You for information on food and organic waste recycling initiatives in your area.
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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.