Methane is a big deal for climate change, but forages can help us reduce emissions

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Methane (CH4) is an often-overlooked greenhouse gas (GHG) that is much more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2) at trapping heat. Methane is 86 times more potent than CO2 over 20 years, and 28 times more potent over 100 years. It is responsible for 30% of global warming. What’s more, although CH4 is a short-lived GHG, increasing emissions could make global warming even worse.

This greenhouse gas is a big deal for climate change scientists, especially for agriculture, as 42% of methane emissions come from this sector. More than a third of this comes from enteric fermentation, a biological process that allows ruminant animals to convert forages into energy for production. Unfortunately, this also releases methane from their digestive tracts. Now imagine 1 billion ruminants burping at the same time.

Does that mean we should just stop all livestock production? Before giving a quick answer, consider that it is the main source of income and employment for more than 500 million farmers worldwide, and especially in the Global South. Beyond economics, the protein and micronutrients that come from animal-sourced foods are vital for millions of vulnerable people, including children and pregnant women. Animal-sourced foods are also more affordable and available than most of the micronutrient supplements such as biofortification and alternative proteins, given the global need to produce more food and meat to meet the nutritional needs of a growing population by 2050.

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