Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Scientists and farmers around the world are debating a very serious subject at the moment. You may not know it, but cows are actually one of the rudest animals around. In fact, they burp and fart so often and in such huge figures that the methane they release may be an affecting part of global warming. Yes, they are really talking about farting and burping cows.
Why are scientists talking about this? Good question, let's start with the science behind passing gas. Farts and burps are essentially pockets of gas that get released from human and animal bodies. Some of it is created inside our bodies as we digest food and some is ingested, when we eat or talk. This mixture is not useful to us, so our bodies propel it out as best they can, “passing gas or flatulence.”
One of the gases found in farts and burps is methane. Certain amounts of methane in the atmosphere are normal. Right along with other greenhouse gases, methane collects in the sky and traps warm air around our planet. The problem starts when the layer of greenhouse gases is too thick and too much heat is shut in. This effect is called global warming my friends!
A report published in the state of California a while back declared that dairy cows in the area were producing almost 20 lbs of gas every year. That is a ridiculously large amount of gas. If that number is correct, it could mean that cow farts are causing more greenhouse gases than pollution from cars, since California has millions of cows.
Scientists around our globe have known for a long time that animal gases could be trouble. What they cannot agree on is how big of a problem it can actually be. Even if scientists manage to measure the size of the farts or burps, they then have to work out how much methane they contain. It is very hard to measure just how much methane an animal is burping and farting out.
A Swedish university has taken this matter very seriously and has been awarded close to $600,000 in support to research this occurrence. Jan Bertilsson of the Swedish University for Agricultural Sciences stated that 20 cows will be involved in the study.
By attaching special collars around the cow’s necks, they hope to calculate the amount of methane released with each burp depending on the kind of food they consume. Mind you this is only a study on burps not farts.
I am not a scientist or anything but it looks like if we want to make a real effort at slowing down our climate change, we simply can’t only go after the cows. It just doesn’t seem to me to be the only source of the problem. What does the rest of the planet think?