What Can We Do About Cow-Caused Climate Change?

Because it's not all our fault: Almost a quarter of US methane emissions come from livestock in the form of burps and farts. Now, a study is looking into ways to reduce that output via selective breeding.

What's the Latest Development?

University of Aberdeen professor John Wallace is leading a project, Ruminomics, with the goal (as stated on its Web site) of "[c]onnecting the animal genome, gastrointestinal microbiomes and nutrition to improve digestion efficiency and the environmental impacts of ruminant livestock production." In other words, Wallace is trying to find out why some breeds of cattle emit more methane (in the form of burps and farts) more than others regardless of their diet. He believes the answer is located in the genome, and plans to test 1,400 cows between now and 2015.

What's the Big Idea?

Almost a quarter of methane emissions produced yearly in the US come from livestock, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Methane is an especially potent greenhouse gas, and can impact climate change even more strongly than carbon dioxide. Some companies have been tweaking the animals' diets in an attempt to reduce their output. In the US, some farmers use a special antibiotic (banned in Europe) that reduces gas by about 15 percent. A program like Ruminomics could give farmers and companies enough useful information so they can breed and select animals who produce less methane.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at FastCompany/Co.Exist

Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less