Is there a conspiracy to hide the truth about cow belching from the public? That's the question put to Bill Nye this week by, um, Batman.
For anyone concerned about climate change, the burning of fossil fuels is and must be the number one concern. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, carbon dioxide (CO2) makes up 81% of greenhouse gas emissions currently in the atmosphere. But methane — which results from the transport of fossil fuels as well as agricultural activity, i.e. cow belching — also contributes to global warming.
Indeed the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that methane warms the atmosphere 86% more than CO2 during its first decade of existence, after which it decays into CO2. With the focus of climate change activists so squarely on the burning of fossil fuels, is it time to turn more attention to the agricultural production of methane gas?
Yes and no, says Bill Nye. The greatest concern remains the production and burning of fossil fuels, and as Nye points out, the demand for energy will only increase as the global population grows from 7.3 billion at present to an expected 9 billion by 2050. But demand will also grow for food energy, and if the world continues to consume animal meat at its present rate, far more livestock will be required.
That is not likely a sustainable plan, says Nye. He predicts that humans will increasingly move toward a plant-based diet, which makes more efficient use of food energy.
A potential solution to the release of both fossil fuels and methane gas is a tax on their emissions. If applied equally across all emitters of greenhouses gases, such that the fee accurately priced the cost these gases extract on our environment, the resulting funds could help mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Bill Nye's most recent book is Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.