Livestock Emissions

Greenhouse gasses (GHG) seem to be at the front of emissions discussions year over year.   When discussing the topic and contributing factors, we hear about transportation, industrial usage, residential usage, and deforestation – but what about agricultural effects?  According to the EPA, agriculture accounted for nearly 10% of the US Greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.  Livestock, fertilizer, and crop management are all contributing factors to the emissions that we don’t really hear too much about when conversing about emissions.

Nitrogen based fertilizers are the main contributing component to increased crop yields each year to the farming community.   It has aided the agricultural realm by promoting quicker and stronger growth of each crop during the farming season.  By adding nitrogen to the soil it also releases to the atmosphere as nitrous oxide.  Nitrous oxide is a GHG that contributes to increased global temperatures and atmospheric decline which are most identified as a byproduct of exhaust gasses from automobiles.

Another lesser realized contributing factor to the emissions is the livestock waste. Methane is a direct result of the livestock digestive system.  Methane, like nitrogen oxide, is a large contributor to the atmospheric conditions and is more potent than either carbon dioxide or nitrogen oxide.   Even though it may sound silly,  consider this: One molecule of methane provides 20x the atmospheric consequence that Carbon dioxide does.   Keeping this into perspective, the methane released by livestock contains more greenhouse gas emissions than planes, trains, ships, and automobiles combined.

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