WHO IS IN THIS VIDEO:
Natalie Kovarik @nataliekovarik is a rancher from Central Nebraska who owns and operates Kovarik Cattle Co with her husband and shares her ranching and familying story online to create a community that believes in Agriculture as much as she does.
Frank Mitloehner @ghgguru is a Professor and Air quality extension specialist at the dept of animal science at UC DAVIS as well as the director of the CLEAR Center.
WHAT FRANK MITLOEHNER & NATALIE DISCUSS IN THIS VIDEO:
- History of ruminants and the carbon cycle.
- Methane vs carbon dioxide and how they are different.
- How we were incorrectly measuring methane & the new correct standard to measure it.
- GHG percentages of different contributing sectors in the US.
- GHG percentages of Agriculture as a whole and the different sectors within it.
- Global GHG livestock statistics vs US GHG livestock statistics.
- Advances in US Agricultures sustainability story.
- What are we doing in Ag to reduce methane emissions.
- Healthy Soils & Carbon Sequestration
- How healthy soils ca help us lock carbon in the ground and the role Ag can play in as a solution.
- Carbon credits.
- Ways to reduce Ags carbon footprint. (Methane and Feed Additives)(Manure)
- Arable land vs Non arable land in the US
- Carbon foot print of grass fed beef vs grain fed beef.
- Balancing sustainability with feeding a growing population.
(see more detailed stats and information below)
STATS & INFORMATION IN THIS VIDEO (VIA Frank Mitloehner):
1.) History of ruminants and carbon cycle:
There is a reason why the great plains are such a great place for Agriculture, because they are fertile from the millions of ruminants that used to graze and deposit their manure there. At one point, pre-European settlement – there were 60 million bison and 40 million large antelope in the US, approx 100 million large ruminants. Today we have 90 million beef cows and 9 million dairy cows, so again, about 100 millions ruminants. Which means when it comes to enteric methane, not much has changed, at least not enough to explain where all the additional carbon that has been added to our atmosphere since the settlement of us has come from. What is different? The fossil fuel industry.
2.) Methane vs Carbon Dioxide
Methane is what Frank Mitloehner likes to call a fast and furious gas. Furious because on a per molecule base, it is more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide is (about 30x more potent), BUT he also says that part that most people miss or leave out is that it is fast. Methane is naturally destroyed! And that is what makes it so different than other gasses. Yes it is potent, but it has a very short life span. There are actually radicals in the air that destroy methane within 10 years of its creation (atmospheric removal of methane). This removal does not apply to c02 and other gases. In fact, CO2 has a lifespan of 100+ years.
Frank gives an analogy. He says to think of a bathtub with a faucet with no drain in it – that is what fossil fuels are. When we burn them we are adding additional warming. Which is why it is such a big deal and contributor to GHG emissions, because they are producing carbon that cannot be readily destroyed. We are just adding more and more to the air aka the bathtub is getting fuller and fuller.
Methane on the other hand, is a bathtub that has a drain. So if we can keep the amount of ruminants level aka keep the water running through the drain, we will not add any new warming to our planet. This is how Ag could actually become climate neutral.
FACTS & INFORMATION CONT’D:
4.) GHG emissions from different US Sectors
Frank Mitloehner states that the US has a good inventory of GHG for all sources. The sectors that burn gas – transportation, cement, power coal, make up ¾ of ALL GHG emissions in the US. The Ag sector on the other hand accounts for a total of 10% of all greenhouse gases. Half of that is animal, and half of that is plant. If we get even more specific, the EPA says all livestock in US combined emits 4% of GHG. This is drastically different of what you will hear in media Frank reminds us these are scientific peer reviewed numbers. You can see the data here on the EPAs Website.
5.) So what is the beef with livestock? Many outlets like to intentionally use global numbers (instead of US numbers) for livestocks impact on climate because they are drastically higher. gAs contribution globally is 14%. If we dive further into this. Frank states that the US owns about 12% of all global green house gases. Of that 12 % – 1% is food production and consumption – and of that 1%, half is animal ag in us half. So globally US animal Agriculture accounts for about 0.5% and we produce 18% of global beef with 6-8% of global beef in us. He then goes on to say how we are champions in beef and dairy productions.
Another global fact: According to the IPCC (the leading body on climate change) – 70-80% of livestock emissions come from animals in developing country aka India, Africa, etc.
FACTS & INFORMATION CONT’D:
9.) What are we doing in Ag to reduce methane emissions?
SOIL CARBON SEQUESTRATION! Frank says by focusing on creating and maintaining healthy soils, we can help lock carbon in the ground and provide an opportunity for Ag to play a solution to climate change. We can even further play a role by reducing emissions from animal manure as well as emissions from enteric sources (belching).
13.) Arable land vs non arable land.
Anyone who is anti Ag likes to say we are wasting farmland by using livestock on it, BUT frank likes to point out how this is a huge misconception. The vast majority, about 2/3 of farmland is “marginal” or “not arable” – that means we cannot grow crops there. It is either too hilly, too rocky, not fertile enough or there is no water etc. So while yes, we use ⅔ of all Ag land for livestock – it is because we have too. It is the only way to get human food production out of that land. If we were to forgo the use of ruminant livestock on that land we would forgo ⅔ of useable ag land and for food production.
ADVOCATING & SHARING YOUR AG STORY
If you want more advocacy material you can read more here on Natalies blog as well as sign up for her company Elevate Ag’s newsletter – where she and her business partner @taravanderdussen send out weekly material on advocacy as well as information on building and growing your social platforms to share your ranching and farming story.
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Frank Mitloehner: cattle & greenhouse gases