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More methane in the mix: could cows bust the carbon budget?

In the media

A new study has revealed that methane emissions from global agriculture in 2011 were 11 per cent higher than previous estimates.

The research used data from new agricultural practices in the IPCC’s 2006 model, which was used to simulate future methane emissions. Changes in livestock size, growth and feed, as well as manure management, have contributed to the boost in methane levels, which have been rising steadily since 2007. The study’s authors say that the revised livestock emissions could account for a half or three quarters of the increase.

In light of the analysis, and given the potency of methane as a greenhouse gas, questions have been raised about the implications for the Paris Agreement and the remaining carbon budget.

 Professor Piers Forster and Dr Chris Smith of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds – who were not involved with the original study – examined the question for Carbon Brief. Tjhey concluded that, in order to stay under 1.5C, the decrease in the carbon budget would be between one to two per cent over the next 20 years.

In an analysis piece for the UK climate news and science website, they wrote:  “The revisions roughly approximate to using up to three months allowed emissions of CO2. The new study reinforces that solutions to address methane emissions are more needed than ever and they can also bring considerable co-benefits for society. Yet, we should not lose sight of the need to focus on CO2 to meet Paris targets.”

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