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Category — Greenhouse Gases

Livestock diet ‘can cut GHG emissions’

Tim Radford


Better livestock diets could mean greenhouse gas cuts of 23% by 2030, the researchers say. Image: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos via Wikimedia Commons

Limiting changes in the way we use land may be a better way slowing the contribution of livestock to climate change than reducing meat consumption, an international research team says.

Here’s a way to make cattle emit lower volumes of methane through their digestive tracts: give the beasts a higher-quality diet. That way, you get more stock on less grassland, get improved yields per hectare and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to new research in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“There is a lot of discussion about the reduction of meat in the diet as a way to reduce emissions,” says Petr Havlik of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. “But our results show that targeting the production side of agriculture is a much more efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

This will provoke some argument, and in any case seems counter-intuitive. Campaigners have been arguing for decades that livestock farming is in many though not all regions an inefficient way to produce nourishment: grain, pulses, fruits and vegetables deliver greater outputs of calories and proteins at much lower overall costs in water, energy and emissions.

Farm animals are responsible for 12% of greenhouse gas emissions and, as the poorer nations develop, demand for meat and dairy protein tends to rise, so emissions are expected to increase. [Read more →]

February 26, 2014   No Comments

Nitrous oxide ‘is potent double threat’

Paul Brown in Warsaw


Dentistry as it used to be: Laughing gas could ease the pain a lot. Image: Immanuel Giel via Wikimedia Commons

The Climate News Network’s Paul Brown, at the UN climate talks – the 19th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – reports on a warning by scientists that nitrous oxide is both a main greenhouse gas and today’s principal destroyer of the ozone layer.

Nitrous oxide, perhaps better known as laughing gas, is produced from agriculture, industry and coal plants. It has long been known as a powerful greenhouse gas. But it is largely forgotten in climate negotiations, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says.

Yet emissions urgently need to be reduced, UNEP argues, because nitrous oxide (N2O) has also become the main destroyer of the ozone layer and so is a danger to humanity on two fronts.

A UNEP report, Drawing Down N2O, written by scientists from 35 organisations, shows the damage currently done by the gas and suggests ways of reducing emissions that would improve agricultural yields and save $23 billion in fertilizer costs.

The report says N2O is the third most important greenhouse gas emitted to the atmosphere by human activities. One ton of N2O has an impact equal to 300 tons of carbon dioxide, CO2.

Since the industrial revolution manmade emissions have increased the level of N2O in the atmosphere by 20%, and unless action is taken, the report says, another 5.3 million tons will be released by 2050.

The gas lasts up to 120 years in the atmosphere, where it drifts upwards to damage the ozone layer. Now that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and chlorine-based chemical emissions have been reduced, N2O  is the largest single cause of ozone depletion. Unless emissions are curbed the gas could undo the work of the Montreal Protocol in reducing the size of the ozone “hole”. [Read more →]

November 22, 2013   No Comments

Warsaw – Day 8: China is ‘unsure progress is possible’

Alex Kirby


China, now the world’s biggest CO2 emitter, is working to cut its carbon intensity. Image: Shubert Ciencia via Wikimedia Commons

The UN climate talks in Warsaw move up a gear in this second and final week, as countries scramble to make some progress on outstanding issues. A key player is China. Fu Jing, Deputy Chief of China Daily’s European Union Bureau, sent this report.

The leader of China’s climate negotiating team at the talks, Su Wei, says he is “not sure whether we are able to make much progress.”

Having said he should “keep silent for a while” over Japan’s reduction in its efforts to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide, Su said: “I don’t know how to describe the meetings and negotiations here in Warsaw.” But he said the European Union’s targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions were “not at all ambitious”.

Nor did he accept any responsibility for events which many believe are connected to climate change. Asked what linked Typhoon Haiyan and China’s growing carbon emissions, he said historic and accumulated carbon concentrations in the atmosphere should be blamed for the disaster.

Though China is one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters, he said: “We are below or around the world’s average in terms of emissions per capita and historical accumulations.

“In spite of this, we have made great efforts to transform our development patterns and decrease the carbon intensity of our economic output.” [Read more →]

November 17, 2013   No Comments

Greenhouse gases have soared to record levels

Greenhouse Gases Have Soared to Record Levels: WMO (via Climate Central)

By Andrew Freedman Follow @afreedma The amount of planet-warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2012, with rapid growth in both carbon dioxide and methane concentrations, according to a new report released Wednesday by the…

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November 9, 2013   No Comments

Undertakings by world governments to cut emissions fall short

Alex Kirby


Smoky sunset: Greenhouse gas emissions are not falling – they’re climbing steadily. Image: US National Archives & Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons

The shortfall between what governments say they will do to cut greenhouse gases and what actually needs to be done by 2020 is growing steadily bigger, the UN says.

The United Nations says it is “less and less likely” that global greenhouse gas emissions will be low enough by 2020 to stop the atmosphere warming beyond the internationally-agreed safety threshold – 2°C above its pre-industrial level.

A report by the UN Environment Programme says current undertakings by world governments to cut emissions fall short of that goal, and emissions “continue to rise rather than decline”.

The report, The Emissions Gap Report 2013, is the fourth in an annual series. It defines the gap as the difference between the emission levels in 2020 necessary to meet climate targets, and the levels expected that year if countries fulfil their promises to cut greenhouse gases (GHGs).

After 2020, the report says, “the world will have to rely on more difficult, costlier and riskier means of meeting the target… If the gap is not closed or significantly narrowed by 2020, the door to many options to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C at the end of this century will be closed…” [1.5° is the more stringent limit urged by many governments]. [Read more →]

November 5, 2013   No Comments

Food waste worsens GHG emissions

Alex Kirby


Waste food: The hungry, the planet and the atmosphere all lose. Image: Taz via Wikimedia Commons

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says food wastage across the world – totalling 1.3 billion tonnes of food annually – is the largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions after China and the USA.

The FAO estimates the direct cost to producers of food that goes to waste is currently US $750 billion annually, a figure that excludes wasted fish and seafood.

But the FAO says the waste not only causes huge economic losses but is also doing very significant damage to natural resources – climate, water, land and biodiversity.

It says its report, Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources, is the first study to analyse the impacts of global food waste from an environmental perspective.

The authors say: “Without accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from land use change, the carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated at 3.3 Gigatonnes [billion tonnes] of CO2 equivalent: as such, food wastage ranks as the third top emitter after the USA and China. [Read more →]

September 13, 2013   No Comments