NASA at Your Table: Where Food Meets Methane

Aug 13, 2021

Today, human sources are responsible for 60% of global methane emissions, coming primarily  from the burning of fossil fuels, decomposition in landfills and the agriculture sector. Nearly a quarter of methane emissions can be attributed to agriculture, much of which is from raising livestock. Rice cultivation and food waste are also important sources of agricultural methane, as nearly a third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted.

At NASA, scientists study the global methane budget to better understand the primary sources of methane emissions and how they contribute to climate change. In addition to the human sources, methane is also produced in natural settings. The greatest natural source of methane is wetlands, which contribute 30% of global methane emissions. Other natural sources of methane emissions include the oceans, termites, permafrost, vegetation and wildfires.

Atmospheric methane concentrations have more than doubled since the Industrial Revolution because of intensive use of oil, gas and coal, rising demand for beef and dairy products and increased production of food and organic waste. Although the increase in atmospheric methane concentrations slowed appreciably near the end of the 20th Century, concentrations have been increasing substantially since 2006, likely as a result of rising emissions from raising livestock, renewed reliance on natural gas and, in recent years, wetlands and global warming.

ASA’s new 3-dimensional portrait of methane shows the world’s second largest contributor to greenhouse warming as it travels through the atmosphere. Combining multiple data sets from emissions inventories and simulations of wetlands into a high-resolution computer model, researchers now have an additional tool for understanding this complex gas and its role in Earth’s carbon cycle, atmospheric composition, and climate system. The new data visualization builds a fuller picture of the diversity of methane sources on the ground as well as the behavior of the gas as it moves through the atmosphere. Credits: NASA/Scientific Visualization Studio This video can be downloaded at NASAs Scientific Visualization Studio

The Greenhouse Effect and Methane

Greenhouse gases, including methane, contribute to chemical reactions and climate feedbacks. The greenhouse gas molecules trap solar energy by acting like a thermal blanket. Energy from the sun is absorbed by Earth’s surface, though some of this energy is reflected into the atmosphere. The absorbed energy is also re-emitted at infrared wavelengths. Some of the reflected and re-emitted energy re-enters space, but the rest is trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases. Over time, the captured heat warms our climate, increasing global temperatures. 

A schematic image solar heat coming from the Sun. A line drawing shows some heat is re-emitted from Earth's surface back into space. Some heat is re-emitted off the surface but is redirected back to Earth by greenhouse gases.

Greenhouse gases in our atmosphere act like a blanket trapping heat from the Sun. This causes global temperatures to rise as the amount of greenhouse gases increases.Credits: NASA/Jesse Kirsch

The human-driven temperature increases can have an impact on methane released from natural sources. For example, permafrost can thaw naturally and emit methane into the atmosphere, but humans have increased the rate at which permafrost thaws due to human-caused warming.

Methane is the world’s second largest contributor to global warming, after carbon dioxide. Although carbon dioxide is more abundant than methane in the atmosphere, a single molecule of methane more effectively traps heat than a single molecule of carbon dioxide.

However, the lifetime of a molecule of methane is shorter than a molecule of carbon dioxide because of natural chemical processes that are quicker at scrubbing methane out of the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. This means that if methane emissions were to decline and the natural chemical scrubbing of methane maintained, atmospheric methane could decrease dramatically in just ten years. Decreasing the amount of methane put into the atmosphere could have a significant and nearly immediate impact on reducing the near-term effects of climate change and may contribute to keeping global temperature change below 2-degrees Celsius.

Why Cows Produce Methane

Cattle, such as dairy cows or beef cattle produce methane as a by-product of digestion. Cattle are ruminant animals, meaning they have specialized digestive systems that allow them to process foods that cannot be digested by humans and most other animals, like fresh grass and uncooked grain. When food enters a bovine’s stomach, it undergoes a process called enteric fermentation: microbes and bacteria partially break down the food particles, which then ferment in the part of the stomach called the rumen. As the food particles ferment, they produce methane. Every time cattle belch – and, to a smaller extent, flatulate – methane is expelled and enters the atmosphere, where it acts as a greenhouse gas.

Infographic with big numbers of methane statistics, which are described int he caption.

Methane fast facts: Methane is responsible for 20% of global warming since the Industrial Revolution; In 2018, the food system contributed 33% of all human-caused GHG emissions; In 2015, livestock contributed to 10% of US methane emissions; Methane is about 30 times more potent than CO2 over the span of a century; Europe and the Arctic are the only two regions whose methane emissions decreased from 2000 to 2018; Atmospheric methane concentrations have more than doubled in the last 200 years.Credits: NASA/Jesse Kirsch

NASA’s Eyes on Methane

While methane concentrations are well observed, emissions have to be inferred based on a variety of factors. NASA scientists use a variety of methods to track methane emissions. To get the most accurate estimates possible, they use emissions inventories from countries around the world, simulate wetland methane emissions, and combine this with ground-based, airborne and satellite data using atmospheric models.

In California (and some other regions), researchers fly aircraft equipped with NASA’s Airborne Visible Infrared Imaging Spectrometer – Next Generation, or AVIRIS-NG, and collect highly calibrated data. This data is used in the California Methane Survey, a project jointly funded by NASA, the California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission to rapidly identify and report methane leaks.

In Alaska and Northwestern Canada, NASA researchers use satellites, aircraft and field research to better understand methane emissions from thawing permafrost as part of the Arctic Boreal and Vulnerability Experiment, or ABoVE. Researchers have discovered that carbon-rich permafrost is thawing at increasingly high rates, likely as a result of human-induced climate change, making the Arctic an important potential source of methane emissions. According to scientific estimates, this region’s soils store five times more carbon than has been emitted by all human activities in the last 200 years.

NASA researchers combine the data from missions like ABoVE and the California Methane Survey with their knowledge of how methane behaves in the atmosphere to create methane computer models. These models can help scientists and policy makers understand past, current, and future atmospheric methane patterns.

Paths Toward Reduced Methane Emissions

Researchers in a variety of fields have looked into potential solutions to decrease global methane emissions. For example, biogas systems reduce methane emissions by transforming waste from livestock, crops, water and food into energy. Biogas is produced through the same natural process that occurs in landfills to break down organic waste. However, biogas systems harness the gas that is produced and use it as a clean, renewable and reliable energy source rather than let it release into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas.

A study led by Professor Ermias Kebreab from the University of California-Davis discovered that introducing a few ounces of seaweed into beef cattle diets could reduce their methane emissions by over 82%.

These types of technological – and biological – innovations may provide decision-makers, ranchers and others with more options for managing our future methane.

Banner image showing a panel of cows in a field, a data visualization of methane in the atmosphere over Asia, a cow burping a conceptual line drawing of methane, and a close up of a cow's black and white pattern.

Credits: NASA/Jesse Kirsch/courtesy of Tracy Schohr

by Emily Fischer
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

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August 15, 2021 2:20 am

does very small concentration of methane in atmosphere has any impact on climate?

Steve Case
Reply to  shania
August 15, 2021 3:07 am

Excellent question. If impact means temperature, you will never find an answer to that question in the popular press. You won’t find it in papers produced by climate science either. The reason for that, is methane’s impact on temperature is nearly nothing. If anyone has a link that says that by 2100 methane is on course to run-up global temperatures by more than a few one hundredths of a degree, let’s see it.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Case
Reply to  shania
August 15, 2021 3:34 am

Negligible. Not measurable.

Here are the sources:

This “cows => methane => methane s a very potent greenhouse gas” is all propaganda of ultraprocessed food industrial complex which wants to force you (via taxation, shaming, outright banning of meat and animal agriculture etc.) to eat their beyond impossible ultraprocessed garbage.

Last edited 1 month ago by Sam
Reply to  Sam
August 15, 2021 4:00 am

Much like the effect of anthropogenic CO2.

bill Johnston
Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
August 15, 2021 6:38 am

But methane is 30% more potent than CO2. Must be really bad!

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  bill Johnston
August 15, 2021 8:53 am

Nothing x nothing = nothing.

Seems there was some song lyrics along those lines…

Last edited 1 month ago by AGW is Not Science
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
August 15, 2021 9:47 pm

Nothing from nothing leaves nothing. Billy Preston

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  Sam
August 15, 2021 6:41 am

More likely pushed by vegetarian and vegan activists.

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
August 15, 2021 7:22 am

all the same people

Citizen Smith
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
August 15, 2021 8:09 am

One of the largest single sources of man made methane is from growing rice. Let’s start with with common sense rice control. Maybe develop some kind of cap and trade tax on rice production eventually eliminating rice all together by 2050. I don’t see a problem with that.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Citizen Smith
August 15, 2021 8:43 am

Did you miss the sarc off?

Rice is a staple food for more than half the world’s population including getting on for 700million undernourished people in the Asia – Pacific Region.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Dave Andrews
August 15, 2021 8:55 am

I think that was a little “if you want to ban my food, you better look in your own back yard first” response to this stupidity about methane.

Reply to  Dave Andrews
August 15, 2021 12:35 pm

Aren’t you using pre-1950 data? In general, the world now has a food glut.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Dave Andrews
August 15, 2021 5:43 pm

Apparently, your “sarc” detector is inoperable.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
August 15, 2021 5:48 pm

Vegans emit much more methane per capita than meat eaters. You can easily search this fact on the internet. The trouble is complex carbohydrates and ‘cruciform’ veggies (they like to call them) – cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, collards and kale eaten in higher volume by vegetarians than in a balanced meat-eating diet, tend not to be thoroughly digested in the small intestine and and are passed on to the large intestine where the simply decompose producing methane (accompanied by bloating).

This, plus the need for large amounts of stuff like tofu (“Beyond Beef” etc.), that behaves like estrogen (man boobs result, and possibly ED?) and pharmaceutical replacements for B vitamins, omega fatty acids and and other nutrients available only from meat, eggs, dairy and fish is a Frankenstein diet. Be my guest, but don’t have totalitarians force it in me. Sheesh, I never realized vegetarianism is a political subversion.

Paul S.
Reply to  Sam
August 15, 2021 9:01 am

How large was the bison herd in the USA and Canada in 1800? How much global warming did they incur?

Bob Hunter
Reply to  Paul S.
August 15, 2021 1:03 pm

Good point
As well, the methane breaks down into CO2 in 5-7 yrs. CO2 absorbed by the plants, eaten by the animals.
“Circle of Life”

Reply to  Bob Hunter
August 15, 2021 4:04 pm

One thing that I’ve never understood with the cows/sheep and methane issue is… do they take into account what would have happened to the grass had it not been eaten by a cow/sheep?

The grass that is eaten is digested, ostensibly by microbes within the ruminant’s stomachs, producing some methane as a byproduct. However, the grass that is not eaten will die down and be digested by microbes and/or fungi in the soil, releasing some methane (and likely CO2 as well), or perhaps it will be burned, releasing primarily CO2.

To me, the cows/sheep are just a transitory step in the cycle. If they were present, the carbon would merely take a different route to get back into the atmosphere where it could again be used by a plant to grow.

Have I missed something fundamental here?

Bill Treuren
Reply to  Bob Hunter
August 16, 2021 1:29 pm

at worst its a residence time discussion

Reply to  Sam
August 15, 2021 9:48 am

Sam, excellent references…
As usual, van Wingaarden and Happer have extensively calculated meaningful graphs while detractors refer to what they think everyones “feelings” are….based on incomplete and preliminary speed-reading of other peoples incomplete and preliminary “feelings”….usually accompanied by the statement that “Happer isn’t a climate scientist”….

Last edited 1 month ago by DMacKenzie
Reply to  Sam
August 15, 2021 10:08 am

I don’t believe that ice core on the right came from a hand held coring device shown on the left. He would only get firn like that. That solid ice core is probably form at least 30m deep.

Ian Magness
Reply to  shania
August 15, 2021 3:35 am

I don’t understand the NASA maths here. I must be really thick. According to them, CH4 is responsible for “20% of global warming since the industrial revolution”, not least derived from the fact that CH4 is “30 times more potent than CO2 (over the course of a century)”.
Hmmm, so:

  • CH4 atmospheric concentration is c1/200 of that of CO2;
  • CH4 thus has a potential effect of 30/200 – or 15% – compared to CO2;
  • CH4 appears to be very much slower acting – perhaps up to a century; and
  • whatever the cause breakdown of global warming, it is nowhere near 100% down to greenhouse gases. I don’t believe in it at all but let’s say the effect is 50%.

So, according to NASA, 15% @ 50% equates to 20% (and that’s not even bringing the time lags in). Really?
The people at NASA are much, much more skillful at maths than I, so where – good WUWT readers – have I completely stuffed up?

David Blenkinsop
Reply to  Ian Magness
August 15, 2021 9:01 am

Well, there you go, doing actual arithmetic, which NASA spokescritters are incapable of, apparently.

Bill Treuren
Reply to  Ian Magness
August 16, 2021 1:32 pm

dont forget the water in the atmosphere the whole CAGW story exists on a feed back and Willis E has shown the linkage is possible negative.

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  shania
August 15, 2021 6:40 am


Reply to  shania
August 15, 2021 6:47 am

Very little. It rapidly oxidises in the air. Really the only greenhouse gas of any significance is the dreaded lethal di-hydrogen oxide

Abolition Man
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 15, 2021 8:37 am

Aaaack!! The dreaded di-hydrogen oxide!!
We MUST start removing ALL pools and spas! The next step is walling off ALL sea and lake shores! If even ONE child is saved from di-hydrogen oxide poisoning, it will be worth it! Right, Simon!?

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Abolition Man
August 15, 2021 8:57 am

Think it was Di-hydrogen monoxide. 😀

Reply to  Leo Smith
August 15, 2021 10:40 am

Since naming convention is that an -oh group denotes an alcohol, water is more correctly…. “hydrol”

Reply to  shania
August 15, 2021 8:39 am

Not only does methane react quickly (producing CO2) but the absorption/emission frequencies where methane is “so much more potent than CO2” overlap almost entirely with other gases specifically H2O.
This is all horse-hickey – or bullsh!t if you prefer.

Bob Cherba
Reply to  DrEd
August 15, 2021 8:50 am

“Bullsh!t” I prefer.

Reply to  shania
August 15, 2021 7:07 pm

Methane from livestock is a cycle .Do not these scientists at NASA know this .
All forage consumed by farmed livestock has absorbed CO2 from the air and the negligible amount of methane emitted per animal is broken down into CO2 and water vapour in around 8 to 10 years .
The increase of methane in our atmosphere is directly linked to oil and gas extraction and coal mining and combustion .
The facts are in the world atmospheric methane levels which steadily rose till 1999 .
A lot of natural gas was vented from oil wells and pipe lines over that time especially in Russia .This problem was mainly fixed by 1999.
From 1999 until 2008 methane levels flatlined and this coincided with coal extraction also flat lining at around 4.7 billion tonnes per annum .
From 2009 world coal production has ramped up and in 2018 8.2 billion tonnes was produced .
Large amounts of methane is released during mining transporting and burning of coal .
All this methane has been locked beneath the ground for millions of years.
Why can”t these scientists work this out for themselves ?
Methane from farmed livestock can never heat the world .
Only additional methane added from coal and oil will lift the concentration and as I have pointed out as methane flatlined 9 years livestock are not causing the increase .
Methane from livestock was introduced at the Kyoto Accord by activists.
If a proper audit and examination of the facts had been under taken this nonsense would never have gone any further .
Instead every greenie and activist blame our cows and other livestock for rising methane levels.
I cannot believe that educated scientist and other intelligent people can not see through this scam.
Farming to feed the world for the last 60 years

Reply to  Graham
August 16, 2021 6:24 am

Methane levels have been found to be seasonal, particularly in the northern hemisphere. During the height of summer, methane levels drop as it is broken down into C02 and H2O.

August 15, 2021 2:22 am

Methane constitutes 1866 parts per billion of the atmosphere. Therefore it has no effect. There simply isn’t enough of it.

It’s staggering it’s even being talked about let alone being considered seriously.

Reply to  Rusty
August 15, 2021 4:01 am

Gotta keep the warming scam going somehow.

Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
August 15, 2021 6:21 am

AOC says the fart molecule can be silent but deadly.

Reply to  Rusty
August 15, 2021 7:18 am

Its absorption lines are insignificant to the energy balance. It’s major lines are at 1.6u and 2.3u which are relatively far away from the peak surface emissions at about 10u, so even when saturated, there’s not a lot of surface emissions to absorb anyway. The ‘reason’ CH4 is claimed to be so much more powerful is that it’s absorption lines are no where near saturated and doubling its concentration has a larger proportional effect than CO2 or H2O. Of course, a larger proportional effect starting from a insignificant baseline is still insignificant.

You would think that NASA scientists would get this trivial math right, but those referred to as NASA scientists work for Gavin Schmidt and their job requires them to support the alarmist position, science be damned, so the fact that they are so wrong must be expected.

August 15, 2021 2:40 am

No straw is too small or too irrelevant to be remain ungrasped by the Climate Alarmists in their pursuit of a Regime of Climate Terror.

Peta of Newark
August 15, 2021 2:43 am

I did, still do, wonder how much Methane comes off El Sol – in the solar wind.
It could be quite considerable – carbon is easy to make and Sol has shedloads of Hydrogen.
Remind me, which and how many of the Outer Planets are swimming in the stuff.
Did it come from Sol and condense when things got cold enough

Back on topic and we see the insane garbage that is an explanation of the GHGE.
One really must wonder what IS GOING ON inside that organisation – how can they not be aware of the 2nd Law and of Entropy.
Just how

Other points:

  • Cows don’t fart, not even to a ‘lesser extent’
  • Food is not never ever wasted UNLESS it is burned. If it finds its way back into the soil/dirt/farm/fields somehow sometime, it is a Force For Good
  • Cows only burp a lot when they are force-fed a rubbish diet. i.e. A High Fibre Diet. Strangely, people find the same thing and with us, it comes out of both ends at Great Hilarity to the children amongst us.
  • Cows, if/when allowed their own free will and choice, they will eat food that causes minimal burpation and zero fartations
  • Methane in the sky, near ground level, would be and is another ‘Good Force’ It is The Original & Best Volatile Organic Compound and will soak up whatever Solar UV is not intercepted by higher altitude diatomic Oxygen and makes it down to the ground. Petrol/gasoline leaks from cars also do that but since cars have been made Ultra Clean, large cities are now awash with Ozone and Nitric Acid aerosols.
  • The Very Last thing that Biogas production is is ‘Clean and Renewable’ Such processes are effectivly burning fertile farmland soil, they are washing it away into the ocean and causing it to blow away in the wind. When it is gone, A Monster will be revealed
  • ……..and as happens in this part of the world, are encouraging rats. Roland Rat simply loves field-fresh corn.
  • Muppets are running this world
  • Period

edit to PS
Would extra methane, via its absorption of UV and Ozone near the surface, contribute to Global Greening?
Because otherwise plants make and release their own VOCs but if Methane and petrol leaks are doing the job instead, would the plants use the energy/resource thus saved to become ‘Greener’

Last edited 1 month ago by Peta of Newark
Reply to  Peta of Newark
August 15, 2021 6:52 am

Cows only burp a lot when they are force-fed a rubbish diet. i.e. A High Fibre Diet. Strangely, people find the same thing and with us, it comes out of both ends at Great Hilarity to the children amongst us.

Many animals fart extensively on thoroughly natural diets

Stephen Mueller
August 15, 2021 2:58 am

It would seem to me that something will eat the grass or it will rot and release its gases anyway I mean dinosaurs didn’t live on fairy dust.

Reply to  Stephen Mueller
August 15, 2021 3:01 am

And during the dinosaur period the land mass was covered in rainforests.

And very warm.

Reply to  Stephen Mueller
August 15, 2021 3:29 am

Grasses only appeared towards the end of the dinosaurs, they likely couldnt digest it.

Reply to  Stephen Mueller
August 15, 2021 6:55 am

Quite true. swamps where vegetation rots via anerobic bacteria are great sources of methane

August 15, 2021 3:14 am

Is methane emission from Mangroves listed as agricultural?

Last edited 1 month ago by lee
Steve Case
August 15, 2021 3:20 am

“Today, human sources are responsible for 60% of global methane emissions,”

I see NASA is using some blog, [Global Carbon Project] as a source.

Reply to  Steve Case
August 15, 2021 4:02 am


Ron Long
August 15, 2021 3:21 am

The NASA Earth Science News Team report says “…humans have increased the rate at which permafrost thaws, due to human-caused warming.”, then says “…Europe and the Arctic are the only two regions whose methane emissions decreased from 2000 to 2018.” Which is it? Humans can’t cause both increased permafrost melting and arctic methane reduction. Looks like the NASA Science News Team is actually the NASA Politically Correct Disinformation Team.

Steve Case
August 15, 2021 3:23 am

“Today, human sources are responsible for 60% of global methane emissions, coming primarily from the burning of fossil fuels,”

Uh doesn’t burning hydrocarbons produce water and carbon-dioxide?

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  Steve Case
August 16, 2021 2:38 am

We humans are really bad, I tell you. Not only burn we fossil fuels to produce CO2. No, we also keep the methane from burning too to make it worse.

Steve Case
August 15, 2021 3:34 am

“…concentrations have been increasing substantially since 2006,…”

NOAA has been tracking methane since 1984 but NASA decided to pick 2006 as a starting point for their claim. Why do you suppose that is? Here’s the graph from the NOAA web page to help you out:
comment image

Gee boys and girls, can you say Cherry Pick?

Ron Long
Reply to  Steve Case
August 15, 2021 7:29 am

Cherry Pick!

Kevin kilty
Reply to  Steve Case
August 15, 2021 8:14 am

How frequently is this the case. Rule number one in the skeptic’s handbook for claims involving any time period is to go find data from before, and sometimes after, that time period and see what was going on.

August 15, 2021 3:42 am

“The greatest natural source of methane is wetlands”

And yet…

“We want to restore a landscape rich in wetlands to help our wildlife thrive and adapt to changing climate. “

And there appears to be a conflict of interest

“Wetlands aid flood defence by acting as sponges slowing down the passage of rainwater to the rivers, thereby increasing the capacity of the catchment and reducing flood risk.”

Hmm, methane or flooding? It’s a tough choice.

Last edited 1 month ago by fretslider
Alan the Brit
August 15, 2021 3:48 am

Twice a very, very small number, is still a very small number!!!

August 15, 2021 3:53 am

Domesticated ruminants are carbon/climate neutral.

Domesticated ruminants are not producing carbon, they are just part of natural biogenic carbon cycle of production and decomposition of plant matter/cellulose. Removing domesticated ruminants form this cycle would have no measurable impact on temperature in year 2100. No whatsoever.

Plant production and decomposition will still be going on without them. Plant matter would still decompose ad “emit” whether domesticated ruminants exist or not.

Every single atom of carbon (CO2 from respiration or CH4 from enteric fermentation) that domesticated ruminants “emit” came from atmosphere in the first place before they emit it back in the atmosphere. Every single atom of carbon that domesticated ruminants “emit” comes from plants. And every single atom of carbon in plants was sucked from the atmosphere via photosynthesis in the first place.

Therefore as long we are feeding domesticated ruminants plant food or as long they are not carrying nuclear reactors around or become alchemists, they are carbon/environment neutral.

Domesticated ruminants are therefore not increasing green house gases concentration in the atmosphere. They are just recycling the “carbon” it was already there. And since no concentration of GHGs by ruminants is being increased they can not warm the atmosphere. Removing them will bring nothing to temperature decrease.

Now, since majority of people operates/thinks in “emissions” and “contribution” to emissions and not in contribution to warming, they are, due to “accounting” nomenclature of global warming potential, mislead cows are warming the planet (attributed contribution to emissions is not equal to contribution to warming). Which they don’t since they are not increasing GHGs concentration since they are just cycling the carbon already in the atmosphere.

If you can not accept the carbon/climate neutrality argument above, then, the fact that the CH4 concentration in the atmosphere is low (and ignoring it is just being cycled and pretending it is stocking up in the atmosphere as the one from natural gas extraction and transportation, for example), when you actually do calculation of contribution of methane form cows on the temperature (not emissions (equivalents)), you find out it will not be measurable in the year 2100. Details here:

Biogenic carbon cycle.jpg
Last edited 1 month ago by Sam
Reply to  Sam
August 15, 2021 1:04 pm

Whether it is good or bad, atmospheric CO2 concentration appears to be increasing. That means plants, and all other sinks, are not keeping up with the production/release of CO2. Cows, and all other animals, contribute something to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and thus to the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Warming might be good rather than bad, that is irrelevant to whether or not warming is occurring. If more CO2 in the atmosphere leads to more warming, however small an amount, then anything, including methane, that release CO2 into the atmosphere, increases warming.

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  AndyHce
August 16, 2021 2:50 am

What if you wear black socks and this contributes to global warming, however small?

Reply to  Sam
August 16, 2021 3:27 am

You are right on the button Sam.
I wrote a blog earlier and what these so called scientists do not want to understand is that farm animals add absolutely NO carbon to the atmosphere .
Every plant that they eat has absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere .
Coal on the other hand has been locked up for millions of years .
I then look below your comments and see the comment from AndyHce.
Yes CO2 and CH4 are increasing but you cannot raise the level of these trace gasses unless it is coming from a mine or a well .{ or some out gassing from the oceans when they warm up}
A cycle can NEVER in a thousand years raise the amount of CO2 or CH4 .
It is impossible .
Blame the COAL not the cow.
Another interesting fact is that the methode microbes that break down the cellulose in the cows four stomachs are digested by the animals The methode microbes multiply very rapidly and they become a large part of the animals diet .

August 15, 2021 3:55 am

Doesn’t that conservation of mass thingy come into play?
I’m not a farmer but I thought 10 acres of “average” unimproved pasture could sustain one cow year after year.
How does the grass grow?
How does the cow gain mass?
Where does the urine and poo go?
Where does the Cs and Hs come from to make the methane burp?

It is my understanding that once the farmer first cuts the trees down to make the ten acres and the first cow fully grows, each subsequent cow contributes nothing.
It is also my understanding that alarmists pseudo scientists don’t do quantitative maths very well.

Reply to  Waza
August 15, 2021 6:58 am

How much land a cow needs is rather dependent on rainfall and sulight.

Robert Hanson
Reply to  Waza
August 15, 2021 10:55 am

“Math is racist” (sic), everyone knows that.

David Roger Wells
August 15, 2021 3:57 am

Cut meat consumption by 40%. Data tells the truth and numbers do not lie. Total methane emissions from all sources including wetlands and fossil fuels are about 614,000,000 tons/year. Residual atmospheric methane is 0.00018%. 1.4 billion cows emit 86 million tons of methane annually which is 14% of total emissions. Therefore 14% of – residual CH4 – 0.00018% is 0.0000238% that is 2.38 trillionths of atmospheric CH4. Atmospheric methane needs to be at least 100 times more prolific to have even the slightest influence on climate. Insofar as UK cows are concerned which are 0.69% of the global total at 0.0000000229908% of 0.00018%. Methane The Irrelevant GHG. Methane The Irrelevant GHG. (CH4) has narrow absorption bands at 3.3 microns and 7.5 microns (the red lines). CH4 is 20 times more effective an absorber than CO2 – in those bands. However, CH4 is only 0.00018% (1.8 parts per billion) of the atmosphere. Moreover, both of its bands occur at wavelengths where H2O is already absorbing substantially. Hence, any radiation that CH4 might absorb has already been absorbed by H2O. The ratio of the percentages of water to methane is such that the effects of CH4 are completely masked by H2O. The amount of CH4 must increase 100-fold to make it comparable to H2O. Because of that, methane is irrelevant as a greenhouse gas. The high per-molecule absorption cross section of CH4 makes no difference at all in our real atmosphere. It cannot contribute to atmospheric warming or climate change.

Abolition Man
Reply to  David Roger Wells
August 15, 2021 8:51 am

But David, getting small minded people to cut their intake of high quality protein is one of the best ways to produce more climate alarmists! Lack of essential amino acids has been shown to adversely affect higher brain function, and probably has a large impact on aggressiveness as well!
How else do you explain Stone Age cultures, like the Comanche, Sioux and Cheyenne; fighting an industrial society to a standstill; at least until the bufffalo were wiped out, destroying the mainstay of their diets?

michael hart
August 15, 2021 3:58 am

The entire aggregate volume of the world’s bovine stomachs is probably about the same as one modest swamp in the tropics. Both are populated with anaerobes fermenting carbohydrates to CO2, methane, and carboxylic acids.

The volume of the world’s termite colonies is probably greater. Then there is the rest of the worlds insects that consume plant matter. And the decomposition of carbohydrates in the soil. What the cows don’t eat will still be similarly decomposed in grasslands.

And those dang wabbits and other herbivores (and humans!). They have stomachs too with anaerobes fermenting away. And more, in low-oxygen water bodies and northern peat bogs etc etc. And photosynthesizers like trees can also produce methane at night.

All producing a gas which is much harder to follow than CO2 because of its short atmospheric half life. Measured/guesstimated with relatively large uncertainties/error-bars.

In other words, the value I attach to the cow-methane models is as close to zero as makes no difference. The major fate of the worlds photosynthetic end products is truly ginormous compared to the digestive system of a relatively few large ruminants. They’re making it up as they go along.

Steve Case
Reply to  michael hart
August 15, 2021 5:43 am

” They’re making it up as they go along.”

If you apply the Duck Test, that is what it looks like.

Dr Ken Pollock
August 15, 2021 4:02 am

“Methane is the second most potent greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide”. Funny how they miss out the most important one – water vapour! But then, what can we do about the clouds? So might as well ignore it, right?

Steve Case
Reply to  Dr Ken Pollock
August 15, 2021 5:44 am

That’s almost a given from climate science. Usually they give the excuse that water vapor isn’t a “forcing agent”.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Steve Case
August 15, 2021 9:32 am

Lol – meanwhile, from the other side of their mouth, water vapor is supposedly going to “amplify” the imaginary warming “effect” of CO2.

Steve Case
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
August 15, 2021 4:37 pm

Good one!

Reply to  Dr Ken Pollock
August 15, 2021 7:55 pm

I stopped reading after I saw that statement. Obviously rubbish propaganda.

August 15, 2021 4:06 am

“emissions have to be inferred” And right there the whole “humans are destroying the climate” fantasy falls apart. Vast majority of methane is natural. Until these chuckleheads come up with a way to stop all naturally occurring emissions they are just pissing into the wind.

August 15, 2021 4:51 am

Now is a good time to ask.
Can anybody explain why methane is considered a “greenhouse gas” at all?
Carbon dioxide has a (weak) absorption band at ~14-16 microns which absorb IR emitted from the surface.
The longest wavelength methane absorbs at is a band ~8 microns. This is far too short a wavelength (and too high energy) for the surface to emit. The surface does not emit in this region as it is just not hot enough. Methane has nothing to do.

So why the fuss?

Reply to  TonyL
August 15, 2021 6:07 am

Does that mean that methane absorbs mostly high energy radiation coming directly from the sun? And therefore COOL the planet?

go methane!

happy Sunday to all!

Kevin kilty
Reply to  TonyL
August 15, 2021 8:37 am

A black-body spectrum at 288K contains energy over essentially all wavelengths, but predominantly from about 5.5 um to 60 um (96% 0f the total); so, there is some energy near 8 um for methane to absorb. The peak of IR emission at 288K occurs at 10 um. The issue is one of how much does total absorption change over the entire LWIR band if methane doubles in concentration.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Kevin kilty
August 15, 2021 9:35 am

That, like the supposed “effect” from doubling atmospheric CO2, would be purely hypothetical, or in real world terms, not able to be differentiated from zero.

Reply to  Kevin kilty
August 15, 2021 10:36 am

I see.
I grabbed a blackbody spectrum for 288K. At 9 microns, the intensity plunging down. There is some intensity there, but it sure is not much compared to the area under the rest of the curve. So yes there is some long IR absorbance there.
I may go ahead and integrate the areas under the methane absorbance curve and the blackbody emission spectrum just to see.

Thanks for the answer.

Reply to  TonyL
August 15, 2021 3:17 pm

For extra credit, try the ACTUAL emission spectrum for the Earth’s surface.

Reply to  Kevin kilty
August 15, 2021 3:16 pm

True, for a black body.

The surface of the Earth is NOT a black body.

Jay Dee
August 15, 2021 5:07 am

Some quick research into atmospheric composition levels finds methane currently accounts for 2 parts per million. If you really believe that 2 ppm is going to kill the planet, would you like to buy a bridge?

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Jay Dee
August 15, 2021 9:36 am

You mean per billion.

Reply to  AGW is Not Science
August 15, 2021 10:40 am

1750 ppb or ~1.8 ppm.
It’s worse than you thought. The sky is falling and it is going to land on all of us with a great big crunch. {A little bird told me.}

Zig Zag Wanderer
August 15, 2021 5:33 am

When food enters a bovine’s stomach, it undergoes a process called enteric fermentation: microbes and bacteria partially break down the food particles, which then ferment in the part of the stomach called the rumen. As the food particles ferment, they produce methane.

And if cows, sheep and horses don’t eat this otherwise useless (to us) vegetation, it will rot and produce exactly the same gases without any benefits to us.

All animals, and indeed plants, are carbon neutral, pretty much by definition. That’s the way the carbon cycle works.

Stuart Cullen
August 15, 2021 5:50 am

Looks like the people in this comment section have had a bit too much to think

Thomas Gasloli
August 15, 2021 6:08 am

“Methane is the second largest contributor to global warming…”

Sorry, no, it is the 3rd: first and most prominently is H2O, second to an almost insignificant degree is CO2, third to an even more trivial degree is CH4.

This isn’t an error; this is lying.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Thomas Gasloli
August 15, 2021 9:41 am

It’s worse than you thought, since “greenhouse gases” are not to blame for global warming to begin with.

You’ve been dragged into the mud by the pig for another wrestling match.

They have no empirical evidence to support the notion that so-called “greenhouse gases” are the cause of any temperature change, that’s nothing but an assumption.

Bruce Cobb
August 15, 2021 6:21 am

Oh goody, the ol’ Methane Gambit again. They usually circle back around to it eventually, so I guess it was time. It’s their backdoor attempt at taking the heat off of “carbon” i guess, even if just for a little while, and a sneaky way especially of attacking natural gas, due to issues of “leakage”. Then they get to throw in the totally bogus permafrost scare, plus they get to attack farmers as well as our diets and food waste, most of which is simply a byproduct of both producing food on a massive scale, as well as transporting it to where it is needed in a timely fashion. Lots to digest, most of which is undigestible, which produces – you guessed it, methane.

August 15, 2021 7:16 am

NASA, proving a predetermined outcome.

If raw data is not enough there is always a pill. Pill: a small round mass of solid medicine to be swallowed whole.

Carlo, Monte
August 15, 2021 7:52 am

Where in the infrared wavelengths are the absorption bands of this extremely powerful greenhouse gas?

Kevin kilty
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
August 15, 2021 8:50 am

NIST data is here. The abosrption is around 1300 wavenumbers/cm = 7.7 um, and 3000 wavenumbers = 3.3 um.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Kevin kilty
August 15, 2021 8:53 am


Kevin kilty
August 15, 2021 8:06 am

20% x 10% = 2%…Cows are responsible for 2% of global warming. Cows burp methane, methane photooxidizes to CO2 and water vapor, CO2 and water vapor plus sunlight make forage, cows eat forage….It’s rock-paper-scissors, and has been going on since ungulates evolved.

All enviropropaganda starts at some carefully chosen spot in a cycle and proceeds only far enough to make a point. Nasa, excellence in science.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Kevin kilty
August 15, 2021 9:44 am

Nasa, excellence in science propaganda.

Fixed that for you.

Of course, this relates to their “climate bullshit” arm, not to the part of NASA dedicated to space exploration, but never let a good excuse for more funding limit your “mission,” I suppose.

Phillip Bratby
August 15, 2021 8:51 am

“Greenhouse gases in our atmosphere act like a blanket trapping heat from the Sun”. What complete non-scientific nonsense

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Phillip Bratby
August 15, 2021 9:45 am

Yes, especially when ten times as much couldn’t prevent the Earth from plunging into an ice age.

August 15, 2021 9:04 am

Beautiful how they even try to explain the greenhouse effect – and fail.

August 15, 2021 9:40 am

It is easy to scare people with things they cannot see. And, if people do see a cow burp, there is no conception of the scale of this in relation to the earth’s atmosphere.

August 15, 2021 10:02 am

60% of global methane emissions, coming primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, decomposition in landfills and the agriculture sector.

How do you “burn fossil fuels” without burning the methane?

My guess is that they are referring to methane leakage during drilling operations. But not knowing what you are writing about is pretty typical for AGW alarmists.

August 15, 2021 11:13 am

Methane is the ultimate renewable biogas. When we burn it, we get energy from four hydrogen atoms for every carbon atom. We have had the technology to use it for years. Examples are burning it that is produced in waste treatment plants and industrial use of that , that is produced in land fills. Just think about the amount of energy could be produced by using the waste treatment technology at all the big hog farms instead of storing it in lagoons. Then there is the big fact that nature has already produced more methane than we can use in decades. We just need more pipelines.

Gary Pearse
August 15, 2021 2:01 pm

“Atmospheric methane concentrations have more than doubled in the last 200 years.”

Was this corrected for the 50-75million buffalo no longer filling up the Great Plains, or the 10s of millions of grassland animals killed in Africa since the 19th century? Whales? Millions of hectares of wetlands drained, filled?

The big poker tell is always what they don’t tell you. Methane in the atmosphere is less than 2.0ppm (yes, two ppm)!!! Indeed, they report the amount in parts per billion – ppb because they are a bit embarrassed by the small amount. Why not tell us that in a shopper’s list of ‘facts about methane’ that you give.

The shift over to methane marks the beginning of terror among climate wroughters that CO2 may not be the ‘Control Knob’ for temperatures after all (Jim Inundation-of-Boiling-Seas Hansen and protegé Gavin Schmidt have recently admitted that models are running a way too hot and something has to be done about it!). Indeed, they opine that a 30yr cooling period can’t be ruled out.

If this is so, not only will the present 6 yr cooling deepen to extend the 18yr Dreaded Pause, but it will erase the 18yr warming stint -1980-1997, that created this multitrillion dollar false alarm in the first place and join up with the 35yr “Ice Age Cometh” cooling period. Then, unraveling the algorithms that pushed the 1930s-early 40s 20th Century high stand of temperatures down, 0.5°C, all of the modern warming period will have taken place prior to mid century, before CO2 became a Planetary Greening Agent.

Methane 30 times more powerful a GHG than CO2? No problem.

John Shield
August 15, 2021 5:08 pm

Termites are notorious methane generators. Very small yet the billions on the planet certainly add up.

August 16, 2021 6:15 am

Every carbon based life form that rots in an anaerobic environment ie smelly, damp compost bin or industrial scale rubbish tip produces methane. So does the North Atlantic rift which belches out methane from time to time.

Paul J Thiel
August 16, 2021 1:11 pm

Methane – yet another reason to drain the swamp.

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