Scientists are now working to create a new “tootless” grass for bovine enjoyment which will help cut methane emissions from the bovine tailpipes. What next? A moratorium on baked beans at BBQs? Editing out that scene from Blazing Saddles so that school kids don’t get bad ideas that might harm the earth?
According to the Scientific American article: “During the two decades of measurements, methane underwent double-digit growth as a constituent of our atmosphere, rising from 1,520 parts per billion by volume (ppbv) in 1978 to 1,767 ppbv in 1998. But the most recent measurements have revealed that methane levels are barely rising anymore — and it is unclear why.”
From NewScientist: “Although this is good news, it does not mean that methane levels will not rise again, and that carbon dioxide remains the 800-pound gorilla of climate change.”
Indeed, methane has made a small uptick in the last year.
Actually, NewScientist is wrong. CO2 is not the biggest “gorilla” of greenhouse gas on planet earth. It’s water vapor. Our earth would be much colder without water vapor in the atmosphere…it would be much like Mars. I seem to recall seeing a figure for average global temperature of about -14°F with water vapor absent.
So many of the climate models focus solely on CO2, but they leave out water vapor as clouds in the equations, or assume water vapor is static.
CO2 is far from being the most potent greenhouse gas. Chloroflourocarbons (CFC’s) commonly used as refrigerants as far worse at trapping infra-red in our
Of naturally created GHG’s, Methane is 23 times more effective at warming the atmosphere than CO2. Nitrous Oxide is even worse at 296. So far no emergency legislation has been authored to eliminate the effect of cows or dental surgeons. The Kyoto treaty does not address these other gases either.
Here is a gauge of various gases and their “GWP”:
Global Warming Potentials Of Gases
(100 Year Time Horizon)
Carbon dioxide (CO2) 1
Methane (CH4) 23
Nitrous oxide (N2O) 296
Fully Fluorinated Gases
The concept of the global warming potential (GWP) was developed to compare the ability of each greenhouse gas to trap heat in the atmosphere relative to another gas. In this case, CO2 is the reference gas. Methane, for example, has a GWP of 23 over a 100-year period. This means that on a kilogram for kilogram basis, methane is 23 times more potent than CO2 over a 100-year period.
The interesting thing here is that this stabilization of methane levels in our atmosphere happened all by itself, and the scientists are clearly baffled as to an explanation. But that doesn’t seem to phase anyone promoting research to prevent cow tooting.