Prof debunks flatulence as major cause of global warming

2012-11-13T00:00:00Z 2012-11-13T10:38:31Z Prof debunks flatulence as major cause of global warmingBy TOM LUTEY tlutey@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

There’s been quite a stink over farting, belching farm animals ruining the planet, and professor Frank Mitloehner wants to clear the air.

Mitloehner, an air-quality specialist at the University of California-Davis has been on a one-man mission debunking misconceptions about livestock and climate change.

On Monday, he spoke to the Montana Farm Bureau Federation in Billings about how methane gas from livestock was misidentified as the bigger greenhouse gas source than airplanes, trains and automobiles combined. Mitloehner is not a climate change denier, but said agriculture is getting a bad rap.

“What this is about is that certain regions of the world show more climate extremes. The question is how much of that climate changes that we see is caused by human activity,” Mitloehner said.

In 2006, the United Nations concluded that the livestock industry was a big contributor to climate change.

In its report “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” the U.N. concluded that livestock were contributing 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases — allegedly more than the entire world’s transpiration. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change used the report to forecast that Himalayan glaciers might vanish within 25 years.

Outside groups reacted to the U.N.’s claims by launching efforts to slow global warming by getting the public to go meatless one day a week, as way of lowering demand for livestock products.

Mitloehner convinced the U.N. to recant its claim in 2010. The U.N. report estimated the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from every aspect of raising meat. The U.N. did not do the same when estimating the greenhouse gases from cars.

The report ignored greenhouse gases actually created during the car’s production and instead zeroed in on tailpipe emissions.

However, scientists insist livestock methane is still a source that should be mitigated even if belching, farting animals have fallen in the U.N. rankings of polluters.

Mitloehner contends that the best way to curb methane emissions from livestock is to modernize farms, making them more efficient.

But last month the United Nations also made Mitloehner chairman of its new Food and Agriculture Organization, which will measure the environmental impacts of the livestock business. 

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