Methane: When Love Puffs Wreak Havoc 

By Jake Sanchez, age 10 and IndyKids staff

A new instrument on the International Space Station has discovered over 50 areas across the globe that are the biggest emitters of the lethal gas methane, NASA announced in late 2022. The methane gas super-hubs spanned areas of Central Asia, the Middle East and southwestern United States. 

Methane is a greenhouse gas that accounts for approximately 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth’s surface and are a major contributor to global warming. Methane is about 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in terms of its ability to trap heat.

One of the biggest producers of methane gas is livestock, such as cows. Cows release methane when they burp or pass wind. Approximately 1.4 billion cattle are raised all around the world to be used for human consumption. Cows account for 40% of methane gas emissions worldwide. According to scientists, when cows let one rip, the methane they release is a more powerful greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide produced when fossil fuels are burned. The gas is more potent in cows because of the way they digest food.

People are now thinking of ways to tackle these methane emissions. Farmers can reduce how much methane their cattle produces by changing their cows’ diets. New Zealand, for instance, plans to charge farmers for the methane emissions from their animals, which will hopefully ensure that farmers will work to alter their livestocks’ diet. 

There are other ways that we can feed cows to reduce their impact. Studies, such as one released by PLOS One in 2021, found that feeding red seaweed to cows reduced their flatulence and also the cost of feed without affecting meat quality. Also, if we choose to eat less red meat, we can try to reduce overall demand.

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