According to Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we should all become vegetarians. Why? Well Dr Pachauri claims “The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that direct emissions from meat production account for about 18% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions”

That’s a lot. In fact according to the IPCC all forms of transport account for just 13% of humankind’s greenhouse gas footprint. So the cows are guilty right? But how much CO2 is a cow actually responsible for?

A climate change criminal yesterday

Well Dr Mike Abberton, a scientist at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research in Aberystwyth claims the average cow produces between 100 and 200 litres of Methane a day. Taking an average of 150 litres, that’s about 0.1kg a day, about 37kg per year assuming cows don’t get to take any days off from being flatulent. We need to also remember that Methane (CH4) is a lot more damaging than just CO2. Taking a figure of 25x (based on a 100 year GWP horizon), that’s equivalent to 910kg of CO2 per year.

In context, that’s like driving the average car sold in the UK 3,500 miles or the footprint of an average UK resident in a month. And there are 1.3 billion of them on earth. But to be fair to our bovine friends, you could make a cow football team with a substitute before they had the footprint of the average UK citizen.

So what does this mean? Let’s just be glad they can’t drive cars, and don’t take long haul flights or live in poorly insulated houses as it would be much worse. And beef does taste great….

Sources:

Global Warming Potential from 2007 IPCC AR4 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_potential)

Shun Meat, says UN Climate Chief: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7600005.stm

Clear research