Rethinking Methane from Animal Agriculture: ASAS Speaker Frank Mitloehner at EAAP
Predicting how greenhouse gases can warm the planet is critical to finding short- and long-term solutions to global warming. At the European Federation of Animal Sciences meeting in Porto, Portugal, September 5-9, 2022, ASAS member, Frank Mitloehner from the University of California – Davis, discussed why we should rethink how methane from animal agriculture impacts global warming. Livestock, especially cattle have been branded as a major emitter of methane and a driver of climate change. However, the methane that is produced by cattle is short-lived because it is destroyed in the atmosphere within a decade. This contrasts with the carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuel emissions which is retained in our atmosphere as a long-term pollutant. Calculations from the recently proposed GWP Star (GWP*) climate metric have shown that methane emissions from the U.S. cattle industry have not contributed to additional warming since 1986. Indeed, the projected climate impacts shows that the California dairy industry will approach climate neutrality in the next 10 years if the current cow inventory holds constant. Animal agriculture can provide short-term solutions to climate change by improving production efficiency and management practices to enable the global community to develop long-term solutions for fossil fuel carbon emissions.
The projected climate impacts show that the California dairy industry will approach climate neutrality in the next ten years if the current cow inventory holds constant, with the possibility to decrease warming if there are further reductions of methane emissions exceeding 1% annually. GWP* should be used in combination with GWP to provide informative strategical suggestions on fighting SLCPs-induced climate change. By continuously improving production efficiency and management practices, animal agriculture can be a short-term solution to fight climate warming that the global community can leverage while developing long-term solutions for fossil fuel carbon emissions.