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In the News

Wind of Change - Bill Gates backs Australian start-up targeting cow burps

Graham Watson

24th January 2023

Innovation and Microsoft-owner backed investment as an Australian firm looks to reduce the methane emissions from livestock (i.e. cow burps and farts) by introducing red seaweed into their diets.

Agriculture is a major source of emissions, with livestock farming particularly guilty, and not terribly energy efficient in many other ways too. Remarkably, agriculture accounts for nearly half of New Zealand's total carbon emissions.

Read: Climate change: Bill Gates backs Australian start-up targeting cow burps

Why is farming a major source of carbon emissions?

Farming is a major source of carbon emissions for several reasons. One of the main reasons is that farming practices, particularly those involving the production of livestock, are responsible for significant emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, which are both potent greenhouse gases.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), livestock production accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with the majority of those emissions coming from enteric fermentation (methane produced by the digestive system of ruminants such as cattle) and manure management.

Another reason why farming is a major source of carbon emissions is that agricultural land use changes, such as deforestation and conversion of natural habitats for agricultural use, contribute to significant emissions of carbon dioxide.

According to data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), land-use changes, including deforestation, accounted for around 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions in the year 2011.

Additionally, the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture can also contribute to carbon emissions, as the production of these chemicals requires significant energy inputs.

According to data from the FAO, the use of synthetic fertilizers accounts for around 1-2% of global energy consumption.

Furthermore, farming practices such as tillage, can also contribute to carbon emissions by releasing carbon stored in the soil. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), tillage can lead to the release of between 20 and 40 metric tons of carbon dioxide per hectare per year.

Finally, it is important to note that the majority of the emissions from farming come from developed countries, where the farming practices are more intensive. Developing countries have a smaller share of emissions from farming, but a higher share of emissions from deforestation.

Overall, farming is a major source of carbon emissions due to livestock production, land-use changes, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides use, and tillage practices. These emissions are significant and are responsible for a large proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Graham Watson

Graham Watson has taught Economics for over twenty years. He contributes to tutor2u, reads voraciously and is interested in all aspects of Teaching and Learning.

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