The next big climate breakthrough could come to us not in the form of commercially scalable carbon-capture systems or cost-competitive solar or wind farms, but rather from the diet we feed our cows. Just as with humans, what we feed bovines affects how much methane they belch out, and researchers have found a new food that can nearly eliminate this sizable source of potent greenhouse gas emissions: seaweed. CBC News reports:
[A] red seaweed Asparagopsis taxiformis…reduces methane in cows burps and farts to almost nothing…The discovery, [researcher Rob Kinley] said, could be a “game changer” when it comes to global warming.
“Ruminant animals are responsible for roughly 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally, so it’s not a small number,” said Kinley, an agricultural research scientist now working at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Queensland, Australia.
“We’re talking numbers equivalent to hundreds of millions of cars.” Kinley thinks it could take anywhere from three to five years to get a commercial animal feed to market. He says the biggest challenge will be growing enough seaweed.
Following climate news can be tax anyone’s mental health. The constant barrage of doom and gloom is fatiguing at best and downright depressing at worst, and it gives the impression that there’s little we can do to avoid the consequences of a warming world.
That’s why it’s so important to highlight stories like this one, because as wide in scope and deep in complexity as the problem of climate change undoubtedly is, so too is our capacity to solve problems. In this case, a way to mitigate one of the largest source of global methane emissions was discovered by a farmer looking to cut the costs associated with feeding his herd. This happy accident could help mitigate one of the largest sources of global methane emissions—serendipitous to say the least.
Climate change is a real, scary threat, but we’re far from helpless before it. Keep that in mind the next time Chicken Little tells you the sky is falling.