Methane From Indian Livestock Adds To Global Warming

Better livestock management can reduce atmospheric methane levels, a new study suggests.

AsianScientist (Jan. 25, 2018) – By S. Singh – Methane produced by India’s livestock population, considered the world’s largest, can significantly raise global temperatures, says a new study designed to help predict climate change linked to greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions from farm animals.

Results of the study carried out by the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and the Deenbandhu Chhotu Ram University of Science and Technology, published in the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety show that the Indian livestock emitted 15.3 million tons of methane in 2012. Globally, the livestock sector is a major source of anthropogenic (human-induced causes) methane emission with annual global contribution of 14.5 per cent.

Shilpi Kumari, corresponding author of the study, tells SciDev.Net that the livestock sector in India has the potential to cause surface temperatures to surge up to 0.69 millikelvin over a 20-year time period, which is roughly 14 percent of the total increase caused by the global livestock sector.

“The impact on climate change is global in result, so the negative impact due to livestock emission is not restricted to India,” Kumari says.

India, with a livestock population of more than 500 million, leads livestock-dominant countries such as Brazil, China and the US. Cattle and buffalo were found by the study to be the major sources of methane among India’s livestock, accounting for 98 percent.

Better livestock rearing practices such as using suitable feed types and improving livestock productivity can achieve reduction in methane emission, says Kumari.

Growth of livestock population is the key factor influencing levels of atmospheric methane, Kumari says. However, environmental risk management through improved livestock productivity, population stabilization, better feed and manure use could reduce methane levels.

“In India, keeping livestock is mostly confined to the rural areas where opting for modern technologies is not possible due to dearth of money,” Kumari says.

According to Gufran Beig, project director, System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, the study is “noteworthy” given the background of climate change and because it highlights the need for technological solutions.

“Methane has a warming potential 20 times higher than carbon dioxide. In the Indian context, methane emissions are worrying because two major sources, livestock and paddy fields, are rapidly growing,” says Beig, “Both sources are connected to the Indian economy and food security.”

The article can be found at: Kumari et al. (2018) Climate Change Impact of Livestock CH4 Emission in India: Global Temperature Change Potential (GTP) and Surface Temperature Response.

Source: SciDev.Net; Photo: Pixabay.
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