Cows are not to blame

Posted on 09/04/2010

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“It’s been generally assumed that if you increase livestock numbers you get a rise in emissions of nitrous oxide. This is not the case.”– Klaus Butterbach-Bahl of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, who is among the authors of a study that overturns the theory that farm animals stoke releases of nitrous oxide (N2O). In fact, grazing by cows or sheep can cut emissions of nitrous oxide — a powerful greenhouse gas — in grasslands from China to the United States, according to the study, Reuters reports. Adding to understanding of links between agriculture and global warming, the report in the latest edition of the journal Nature said livestock can help to limit microbes in the soil that generate the N2O, also known as “laughing gas.” Nitrous oxide is one of several heat-trapping gases linked to farm animals and the scientists said there was a need for more study to see how far their findings would affect agriculture’s total impact on climate change. Emissions of the gas account for 6-8 percent of global warming from human activities, making it the third most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide and methane, Butterbach-Bahl said. Estimated nitrous oxide emissions from temperate grasslands account for 1-2 percent of the total.
Global Development Briefing — Grass Roots Research
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