Archive for ‘Methane’

Radical Natural Climate Solutions

Friday, November 16th, 2012

In the lead up to COP18, climate scientists are desperate for solutions, but few countries are willing to take bold action.  The world is on track for 6° warming: we have reached a point where radical and affordable solutions to fix our climate are urgently needed.  The solutions described here are low cost, natural and solve both short and long term global warming.


Shorter Lived Climate Forcers: Agriculture Sector and Land Clearing for Livestock

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

In this video presentation, Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop, World Preservation Foundation Senior Scientist, puts forward the case for how, with the devastating effects of climate change being felt ever-more quickly and with increasing intensity, the importance of embracing fast-acting solutions to mitigate climate change has increased dramatically.

In recent years, greater understanding of climate science has advanced considerably, and scientists and even policy makers now recognise that climate change in the short term is being driven by extremely potent, shorter-lived climate forcers. By reducing these climate forcers — namely black carbon, methane and tropospheric ozone — cooling begins rapidly.

Globally, the production of meat and dairy are significant contributors of these fast warming agents with far reaching consequences on planetary warming and environmental devastation. These include the major effects of black carbon due to biomass burning, on West Antarctica as well as the tropical monsoons; deforestation; soil carbon loss; and, food and water security. It’s estimated that 47% to 60% of the black carbon reaching West Antarctica and causing rapid melting is due to biomass burning resulting from livestock pasture management.

CO2 from pasture maintenance fires, reforestation of pastures and soil carbon uptake on relief of grazing pressure may also play a part in a fast-acting solution to the climate crisis.

This video is a synopsis of the paper Gerard wrote that examines the contributions of agriculture, namely livestock farming, to planetary warming through the shorter-lived climate forcers, and the effect of animal agriculture abatement on alleviating global warming and environmental collapse. We also propose four policy measures to immediately reduce the shorter-lived warming agents.

(By: Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop: Senior Scientist, World Preservation Foundation )

Can we control black carbon in the Arctic by reducing agricultural fires?

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Looking forward to seeing the presentations and meeting reports from the ‘International Meeting on Open Burning and the Arctic: Causes, Impacts, and Mitigation Approaches‘ conference held in St. Petersburg last week.

The Clean Air Task Force blog post on the conference is included below for reference:

One long day down, and one to go at a global meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, where climate scientists, fire experts, farmers, regulators and NGOs have been discussing the role of springtime fires on climate change in the Arctic and what must be done to reduce the occurrence of set fires in northern latitudes.

The Arctic is warming at an alarming rate, threatening not just regional ecosystems but coastal areas around the world that are vulnerable to sea level rise.

Carbon dioxide is the main pollutant responsible for this warming, but recent research shows that black carbon, or soot, from incomplete combustion may also be responsible for much of the Arctic’s warming.

Samples from snow indicate that most of the black carbon in Arctic snow comes from burning biomass, and much of that is from burning crops and grasslands in northern Eurasia.

These crop and grass fires have local impacts too, of course.  These fires often get out of control and spread into forests and peatlands. In fact, many of the deadly fires that plagued Russia this past summer began with fires set on grasslands or croplands.

In response to the growing threat, Clean Air Task Force and Bellona Russia have organized this event to:

  1. 1 Examine the range of health, safety, and climate impacts associated with open burning.

  3. 2 Elevate the issue of black carbon emissions from open burning, and its Arctic impacts, among researchers, governmental bodies, and NGOs in Russia and elsewhere.

  5. 3 Increase coordination between different organizations (governmental, research, and NGOs) in the USA, Europe, and Russia, and within those countries, working on short-lived climate forcers.

  7. 4 Survey indigenous practices and motivations for burning.

  9. 5 Explore alternatives to burning and strategies to reduce emissions from burns, including the practical, economic, cultural, and environmental implications of these alternatives.

We’re not exactly sure where we’ll end up tomorrow, but conversations have been flying and we expect some useful closure by the end of the conference. More information about the meeting is available at

After the meeting we’ll post presentations, meeting reports, and any other outcomes on that site.

Methane releases in arctic seas could wreak devastation

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Massive releases of methane from arctic seafloors could create oxygen-poor dead zones, acidify the seas and disrupt ecosystems in broad parts of the northern oceans, new preliminary analyses suggest.

Such a cascade of geochemical and ecological ills could result if global warming triggers a widespread release of methane from deep below the Arctic seas, scientists propose in the June 28 Geophysical Research Letters.

Worldwide, particularly in deeply buried permafrost and in high-latitude ocean sediments where pressures are high and temperatures are below freezing, icy deposits called hydrates hold immense amounts of methane (SN: 6/25/05, p. 410). Studies indicate that seafloor sediments beneath the Kara, Barents and East Siberian seas in the Arctic Ocean, as well as the Sea of Okhotsk and the Barents Sea in the North Pacific, have large reservoirs of the planet-warming greenhouse gas, says study coauthor Scott M. Elliott, a marine biogeochemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Many oceanographic surveys have already discovered plumes of methane rising from the ocean floor, particularly in the Arctic, Elliott notes. The climate warming expected in coming decades will likely extend even into the deep sea, melting or destabilizing hydrates and releasing their trapped methane, he explains. Some scientists estimate that increased temperatures across some swaths of ocean floor between 300 and 600 meters deep — where methane hydrates are now stable but may not be in the future — could eventually release as much as 16,000 metric tons of methane each year.

That methane would be an unexpected bounty for methane-munching marine microbes that consume dissolved oxygen and produce carbon dioxide. As a result, the researchers’ model suggests, the waters down-current of a large methane plume, especially in an ocean basin with poor circulation, could lose as much as 95 percent of their oxygen.

The ocean acidification that resulted from the increased carbon dioxide would rival that seen in surface waters under today’s atmosphere, which is already stifling the growth of phytoplankton, rendering the shells of marine snails thinner (SN: 10/20/07, p. 245) and affecting marine ecosystems worldwide (SN: 7/17/04, p. 35).

“This will be a truly big environmental pollution problem in the next few decades,” Elliott contends. “This problem is not going to go away.”

Besides generating large volumes of acidified water and low-oxygen dead zones, the microbial activity will rob the waters of key nutrients — including nitrate, copper and iron — that otherwise would be used by microorganisms that don’t feed on methane. Many of these nutrients are already sparse, and the resulting shift in populations among the fiercely competitive microorganisms at the base of the ocean’s food chain in many regions could be devastating, the researchers suggest.

“This is an interesting possibility,”

says David Valentine, a microbial geochemist at University of California, Santa Barbara.

The team “has taken what we know about methane-consuming organisms and placed it in the context of a warming Arctic,” he notes.

Nevertheless, he continues, the largest rates of methane release considered by the researchers “are considerably larger than scientists have seen in the Arctic recently.

“They picked a very large [methane] flux, in my estimation”, he says.

“But there’s very little doubt that if methane emissions are as large as this, there will be severe biological and geochemical impacts.”

Future work will refine the new study’s preliminary results, says Elliott. In areas where river deltas inject organic material and dissolved trace elements into the sea, for instance, it’s not clear how all of the intricately related processes will affect water chemistry.

On the whole, though, the cascade of ecological effects envisioned by Elliott and his colleagues are a reasonable scenario, Valentine says.

“The same sort of processes are seen in the dead zones in many lakes and oceans today,” he notes.

Source: Methane releases in arctic seas could wreak devastation - Sciencenews

Date: 05 July 2010

Experts Warn Climate Change Is Beginning to Disrupt Agriculture

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

With the added environmental stresses of climate change, prices of staple crops could double

Every nation — developed and otherwise — is dependent upon a stable agricultural sector, and climate change threatens that stability, a panel of experts said yesterday.

World population is expected to swell by 50 percent by 2050. This alone is a challenge for the world’s supply of vital grains, said Gerald Nelson, an agricultural economist and fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. But then you have to tack on the impacts of climate change.

Global agriculture, he said, could adapt to climate change for about $7 billion annually, with most of the resources being devoted to research, new irrigation techniques and training small farmers for rises in sea level.

Agricultural management directly affects how the three major greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — are cycled through the environment. According to United Nations Environment Programme, “Agriculture, deforestation and other forms of land use account for nearly one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions.”

Source: Experts Warn Climate Change Is Beginning to Disrupt Agriculture - Scientific American

Date: 17 June, 2010

EU sets out sustainable biofuel criteria

Monday, June 14th, 2010

The UK’s biofuel industry will have to deliver “substantial improvements” if it is to comply with new EU-wide sustainability standards that are due to come into effect by the end of the year.

Late last week the European Commission released two communication documents clarifying how member states should implement the biofuel components of the Renewable Energy Directive when they come into effect at the end of this year.

The communications call on governments to set up independently verified certification schemes designed to ensure biofuels are produced in an environmentally sustainable manner.

The new certification schemes are being billed as voluntary, but the European Commission signalled that only biofuels that carry sustainability labels will be allowed to count towards national targets requiring 10 per cent of EU road fuels to come from renewable sources by 2020. The condition means that the sustainability certification will, to all intents and purposes, become mandatory for biofuels produced in the EU or imported into the bloc.

The proposed “Recognised by the European Union” label will only be awarded to biofuels that can demonstrate that they deliver greenhouse gas savings of at least 35 per cent compared with petrol and diesel. The target, which covers methane and di-nitrous oxide as well as carbon dioxide, will rise to 50 per cent in 2017.

Biofuel firms carrying the label will have to submit to regular independent audits of their entire supply chain, from farmer through to fuel supplier. They will also have to demonstrate that the fuel has not been produced in environmentally sensitive areas, including protected areas, natural forests, wetlands and peatlands. Significantly, biofuels made from palm oil grown in converted forest plantations will not be able to qualify for the label.

Source: EU sets out sustainable biofuel criteria – businessGreen

Date: 14 June, 2010

Mammoths contributed to global warming with methane emissions

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Together with other large plant-eating mammals that are now extinct, they released around 9.6 million tonnes of the gas each year, experts estimated.

When the ”megafauna” disappeared there was a dramatic fall in atmospheric methane which may have altered the climate.

Analysis of gases trapped in ice cores suggests that the loss of animal emissions accounted for a large amount of the decline.

”The changes in methane concentration at this time seem to be unique,” said the researchers, writing in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. The scientists, led by Dr Felisa Smith from the University of New Mexico in the US, pointed out that a ”cold event” hit the Earth at about the same time that methane levels plunged.

”Our calculation suggest that decreased methane emissions caused by the extinction of New World megafauna could have played a role..” they wrote.

Source: Mammoths contributed to global warming with methane emissions –

Date: 24 May 2010

Mammoths contributed to global warming with methane emissions

Research Suggests Large Mammals Influenced Global Climate

Monday, May 24th, 2010

More than 13,000 years ago, millions of large mammals such as mammoths, mastodon, shrub-ox, bison, ground sloths and camels roamed the Americas and may have had profound influences on the environment according to research in a paper titled, “Methane Emissions from Extinct Megafauna” released in the publication Nature Geosciences Sunday.

The extinction of these large herbivores, which also include horses, llamas and stag moose in addition to the giant wooly mammoth, probably led to an abrupt decrease in methane emissions and atmospheric concentrations of the gas with potential implications for climate change says Dr. Felisa Smith, Associate Professor of Biology at the University of New Mexico.

The research also involved Dr. Scott Elliott from the Climate, Ocean, Sea Ice Modeling Team at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Dr. Kathleen Lyons in the Department of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution.

“This is arguably the first detectable influence of humans on the environment going back 13,400 years to when humans first got to the continent,” said Smith. “I think that it’s intriguing because there are a lot of ramifications. Potentially, if the decrease in methane, which is synchronous with this ice spell, was actually the cause, then humans contributed to the Younger Dryas cold episode.”

“We were able to come up with an estimate, which turns out to be about 10 teragrams. This is really pretty enormous,” said Smith.

“When you bracket it, at the very minimum, the demise of all these animals explains 12 percent of the decrease in methane seen at this time. At the maximum, it explains the entire decrease. This suggests that the extinction of megafauna by humans caused a detectable impact on the environment long before the development of agriculture and the industrial age.”

Ice core records from Greenland suggest the methane concentration change associated with a 1 degree Celsius temperature shift ranges from 10 to 30 parts per billion by volume with a long term mean of about 20 ppbv. A drop of 185 to 245 ppbv methane drop observed at the Younger Dryas stadial is associated with a temperature shift of 9 to 12 degrees Celsius. The calculations suggest that decreased methane emissions caused by the extinction of New World megafauna could have played a role in the Younger Dryas cooling event.

Source: Research Suggests Large Mammals Influenced Global Climate – UNM Today

Date: 24 May 2010

Ruminant livestock emit 80 million tons of methane per year, with US cattle emitting at least 5.5 million tons per year (20% of USA’s total methane emissions)

Monday, March 29th, 2010

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency:

“[g]lobally, ruminant livestock produce about 80 million metric tons of methane annually, accounting for about 28% of global methane emissions from human-related activities.

In the U.S., cattle emit about 5.5 million metric tons of methane per year into the atmosphere, accounting for 20% of U.S. methane emissions.”

An adult cow may be a very small source by itself, emitting only 80-110 kgs of methane, but with about 100 million cattle in the U.S. and 1.2 billion large ruminants in the world, ruminants are one of the largest methane sources.

In New Zealand, emissions from agriculture are responsible for half of all greenhouse gases.

Source: Ruminant Livestock – Frequent Questions – How much methane is produced by livestock? – US Environmental Protection Agency

Date: Retrieved 29 March 2010

Source: Potent methane is an overlooked greenhouse gas – Reuters

Date: 30 April 2007

CO2 emissions have zero effect in the near-term due to cancelling effect of combustion-derived aerosols: non-CO2 greenhouse gases are responsible for virtually all near term warming

Monday, March 29th, 2010

CO2 emissions are actually having roughly zero effect on global temperatures in the near-term, due to the cancelling effects of aerosols, which are produced by fuel burning such as in cars and power plants.

The EarthSave International Report “A New Global Warming Strategy” states:

“[O]ther greenhouse gases trap heat far more powerfully than CO2, some of them tens of thousands of times more powerfully. When taking into account various gases’ global warming potential—defined as the amount of actual warming a gas will produce over the next one hundred years—it turns out that gases other than CO2 make up most of the global warming problem.

Sources of non-CO2 greenhouse gases are responsible for virtually all the global warming we are going to see for the next half century. Even this overstates the effect of CO2, because the primary sources of these emissions—cars and power plants—also produce aerosols. Aerosols actually have a cooling effect on global temperatures, and the magnitude of this cooling approximately cancels out the warming effect of CO2.

The surprising result is that sources of CO2 emissions are having roughly zero effect on global temperatures in the near-term”.

It goes on to say:

“[S]ources of non-CO2 greenhouse gases are responsible for virtually all the global warming we’re seeing, and all the global warming we are going to see for the next fifty years. If we wish to curb global warming over the coming half century, we must look at strategies to address non-CO2 emissions.

The strategy with the most impact is vegetarianism.

Source: A New Global Warming Strategy – Noam Mohr for EarthSave International – AbstractFull report (PDF) – (Further references given on pp 4, 5)

Date: August 2005

Results 1-10 of overall 26
REPORTS see all

Reversing Meat-Eating Culture to Combat Climate Change


Livestock Production and Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers


Plant-Based Diets - A solution to our public health crisis


Leaders Preserving Our Future - Insights Paper - WPF - November 2010


Maintaining a Climate of Life - Summary Report


Livestock's Climate Impact


Livestock & Sustainable Food


Reducing Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers Through Dietary Change


The global cost of biodiversity loss: 14 trillion Euros? - EU Commission (2008)


Forests, Fisheries, Agriculture: A Vision for Sustainability (2009)



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