Methane research inspired by NZ farmers

Greenhouse gases produced by cow burps are growing at a faster rate than the man-made emissions responsible for global warming, according to the latest research.

Dr Andy Thorpe, an economist at the University of Portsmouth, says his research was inspired by reports from New Zealand about belching cows and methane emissions.

“The genesis of the paper can be traced to articles I read a few years back from New Zealand farmers on New Zealand’s belching animals. Being curious, I looked deeper and came across the seminal article by Crutzen et al (1986) which computed a global enteric budget.

“As a development economist, this made me wonder what had happened since – and so I decided to see what had happened in the twenty years post-Crutzen as it were. The main finding of paper is/was that developing country emissions have grown to account for 75% of enterically produced methane now, compared to 67% two decades ago.

“As I teach environmental issues too — this led me to Kyoto — and to speculate of the Kyoto countries, which might be ‘overstepping’ the mark wrt methane. Although the paper is written from a global perspective, there are a few references to NZ (in fact, the infamous quote ascribed to me about ‘cows and family cars’ comes from your very own Climate Change project).

“It seems that the fairly dramatic reduction in sheep flocks 69.7 to 40 million over the period 1984-2004, has pushed NZ enteric emissions down sharply, although – as the materials emanating from yourselves show, there is still room for improvement.”

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