With record heat waves, costly fire seasons, rising sea levels, and superstorms wracking our planet, it is clear that human-caused climate disruption is causing major problems for all of Earth’s inhabitants. Fossil fuels have long (and correctly) been identified as the biggest culprits, with the majority of humanity’s atmospheric carbon contribution coming from burning fossil fuels — oil, coal, and natural gas — and reversing hundreds of millions of years of natural carbon sequestration on the part of swamps and forests. However, there is an increasing global awareness that animal agriculture also plays a major role in accelerating climate change.
Cattle and other domestic ruminants have a four-chambered stomach, including a fermentation vat (called a rumen) that enables the animal to use microbes to break down cellulose — the main component of wood, paper and cardboard — into sugar. This fermentation process creates methane, which increases atmospheric temperatures 25 to 84 times as much as carbon dioxide. Thus, cattle, sheep and other livestock boost the carbon dioxide absorbed by plants into a far more climate-potent gas.
Livestock belching, farting and manure emissions of this and other gases has been estimated to account for 14 to 18 percent of the total human-induced greenhouse gases that are responsible for climate change. The remaining 82 to 86 percent of carbon emissions into the atmosphere comes from taking carbon out of the ground and pumping it into the atmosphere, whether through equally-potent methane leaks from natural gas wellfields and pipelines or through burning fuels to produce carbon dioxide. Thanks to the combined effect of greenhouse gases from livestock production and fossil fuel combustion on the world’s climate, the survival of the planet’s life forms, humanity included, is now at risk. […]