Sheep and cows on methane roundabout

Letter the Herald declined to publish

Jamie Morton’s recent Herald article How NZ could cut agriculture emissions by to [sic] 10 per cent states:

Nearly half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture – the main source being methane burped from cattle and sheep.

It’s indeed surprising to again hear this non-factual assertion that methane in ruminant eructation constitutes cumulative emissions, when it’s well established that the methane arises from the digestion of recently-eaten grass as part of a cycle.

One has to wonder where the government gets its scientific advice.

There is no evidence to claim that ruminant methane is one-way traffic, for it moves in a cycle, and has done for millions of years. After a short time in the atmosphere the methane breaks down, the carbon dioxide is released to contribute to more grass growth, the grass is consumed and digested and around it goes again. Nothing is added to beyond wool, milk, meat and the rest of the beast (at slaughter nothing is wasted).

To continue claiming that farmers are in this way adding to global warming signals deep ignorance.

It’s actually a lot worse than this, because this is not merely “honest” ignorance. Rather, there exists in our public scientists a deep-seated willingness to deceive New Zealanders about the cause of global warming. Without that readiness to hoodwink us, the scientists would freely discuss all manner of uncertainties in climate science and openly admit to its deficiencies.

A willingness to deceive us

For instance, they’d be happy to confirm that the grossly overstated global warming potential of methane (a whopping 28 times that of carbon dioxide), which number by itself threatens our hard-won agricultural prosperity and leadership, has, according to the IPCC’s own mathematics, not a leg to stand on, and they would swiftly replace it.

More on this shortly, but it’s important to remember that carbon dioxide and methane move through ruminants (sheep, cattle, deer and goats) in a continuous cycle and are not the source of endless quantities of newly-created methane.


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22 Thoughts on “Sheep and cows on methane roundabout

  1. Man of Thessaly on 14/12/2018 at 11:27 pm said:

    Who says “methane in ruminant eructation constitutes cumulative emission”? The statement about nearly half NZ’s GHG emissions coming from agriculture refers to annual emissions, reported as CO2-equivalent using the internationally-adopted GWP-100 metric. The government doesn’t say they accumulate – read their consultation document from earlier this year.

    GWP-100 is flawed, as you know, but if you prefer a metric that better reflects warming, such as GWP*, then you will agree that NZ’s current level of methane emissions cause much more warming than our entire cumulative CO2 emissions to date.

  2. Richard Treadgold on 15/12/2018 at 10:19 am said:


    Who says “methane in ruminant eructation constitutes cumulative emissions”? … The government doesn’t say they accumulate.

    No, but it’s a necessary corollary in adding this portion of agricultural emissions to our national inventory, for if it leaves the atmosphere immediately or there’s sufficient negative feedback, or both, no warming will occur, and if this methane is not causing warming, then blaming the farmers is unjustified. The whole point about accounting for atmospheric emissions is that they are not ephemeral, but remain to cause warming.

    But the other point is that since ruminants evolved there’s been no substantial change in the numbers of ruminants. It’s impossible to claim that domestication of ruminants has added one gram of atmospheric methane, yet the whole point of the climate campaign is to identify anthropogenic warming. Animal husbandry, ancient and modern, echoes and replaces natural processes. Remember too, our national herds constitute only about a hundredth of the global herds. It’s not fair or reasonable to expect of Kiwi farmers considerable expenditure that’s not required elsewhere and that will not affect global emissions.

  3. Man of Thessaly on 16/12/2018 at 8:21 am said:

    So who says it’s a “necessary corollary”? You’re the only one suggesting it, even though you agree it doesn’t make sense! You seem to be a bit slower than the rest of the country in learning about methane: yes, it’s ephemeral (half life about 8 years); yes, it causes a significant faction of anthropogenic global warming; no, it doesn’t have to reduce to zero emissions in order to limit warming. The government, NZ’s farming leadership, and most farmers, understand all this.

    Can you provide a reference to support your statement that since ruminants evolved there’s been no substantial change in their numbers? I’m sceptical. But even if that’s true, it doesn’t change the fact that reducing emissions from agriculture will help limit global warming. I know you don’t agree that the world is warming, that it’s caused by humans, or that it’s a good idea to limit further warming – no need to go over all that again in this thread. Nevertheless, that’s what has agreed by (almost) all countries, and for people who do accept all this, it’s logical that agriculture plays its part in reducing GHG emissions.

  4. Gwan on 16/12/2018 at 9:56 am said:

    Reply to Man of Thessaly,
    Methane is a non problem exactly the same as burning bio-fuels.
    No extra warming can occur over a ten year time span as methane breaks down in the upper atmosphere into CO2 and H2O and these are then available to grow more forage and the cycle continues .
    The volume of methane is 1.9 parts per million in the atmosphere and is increasing very slowly and that increase is not being caused by farmed livestock .
    The increase in methane is mostly from gas fields and coal mining around the world .
    The anti meat anti farming lobby jumped on board to lay the blame for global warming on farmed livestock.
    Our government intend to grow a billion more trees to absorb CO2 but this is only an offset as when the trees are harvested a lot of CO2 starts being released as the wood rots or is burnt ,
    What don’t you get about this ?
    A cycle doe’s not increase the volume of methane in the atmosphere.
    If you really think that global warming is a threat to the world change your lifestyle ,sell your car .use no electricity ,grow your own food and buy only necessities from the shops .

  5. Man of Thessaly on 16/12/2018 at 9:29 pm said:

    Well Gwan, you seem to be as far off the pace as Richard is!

    ○ Methane from agriculture is obviously different to biofuels. With biofuels, CO2 is remove from the air by plants, and then returned by combustion. With a ruminant animal, the CO2 spends a few years or decades as CH4, and during this time it’s a more powerful GHG and causes warming.
    â—‹ Methane from agriculture increased 20% from 1970 to 2010, so is contributing to the increase in the atmosphere.
    ○ Methane emissions overall increased by more than 50% over the same time, so you’re right that the energy sector plays a bigger part.
    ○ I agree that plantation forestry is only a carbon sink while it’s growing, so it’s a relatively short-term thing for NZ (a few decades).

    The interesting questions for NZ are what our methane target should be (stabilise warming? consistent with 2 degrees? 1.5 degrees? wait and see what the rest of the world does?) and how to achieve that (research? efficiency gains? The ETS?). It’s not just some “anti meat anti farming lobby” – the farming industry groups (Feds, Beef and Lamb) and the big companies are all debating these questions. They’re way ahead of you.

  6. Brett Keane on 17/12/2018 at 12:06 am said:

    My own research under Dr Bolan showed me that our farm-related GHG emissions are within the annual natural variation. I have since come to see the exaggerations around the effects of trace gases on top of the exaggerations of the effects of gases full stop. Except for their actual mass around any planetary body.
    The forthcoming attacks on the rural economy under Warmist policies are in line with the ideas of Strong, Orestes, Edenhofer etc.. Not to mention Stalin etc.. Our cities start to fall apart after four days once the countryside is disrupted, so it would be a good plan for those so inclined…. Though I suspect such haste will not be necessary. Brett

  7. Brett Keane on 18/12/2018 at 4:31 am said:

    The methane claims are just another rort like all CAGW but even more so. Changes registered in Billionths and called a danger, are the subject of laughter from honest Scientists. It is not radioactive so it cannot have any discernable effect. Even if the Gas Laws did not forbid that a priori.
    Modern Scientific Farming has been ‘blamed’ for drying up 90% of NZ’s Swampland. It is swamps, mainly seasaonal, that induce methane release from soil. This is by way of anaerobic metabolism once waterlogging drowns aerobic metabolism. I have identified methane release as the way of deacidification of fatty acid buildup eg acetic, butyric, propionic; in the anaerobic cycle. Or it would not work.
    Attempts to play around with ruminant digestion will come up against things like this. Similarly Nitrous Oxide is released but not so much when proper drainage techniques are used. None of this is allowed for in the rush to demonise those who feed and clothe us, a truly insane desire.
    Words may continue to flow and people will keep on dying fom winter cold, needlessly as right now in the Northern Hemisphere. The next step is to add hunger to that list. Brilliant! As South Australia can testify.

  8. Barry Brill on 18/12/2018 at 7:00 pm said:

    Stabilisation is a no-brainer.

    The Rio Earth Conference in 1992 was concerned with mitigating future INCREASES of global warming. The resultant UNFCCC treaty makes it very clear that it aims to prevent INCREASES in anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases to the point that the warming becomes “dangerous”.

    The Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and the Paris Agreement in 2015 both refer expressly to INCREASES in emissions and warming. The goal is very specific. Nobody wants to eliminate atmospheric greenhouse gases or even to reduce the 96% of CO2 concentration that is contributed by nature. Nobody objects to the existing global temperature and don’t even mind if it increases by a further 0.5°C. Nobody has undertaken to attempt global cooling.

    Keeping faith with the international goal, New Zealand should make efforts to ensure that its annual additions to atmospheric methane are fully balanced by its annual subtractions. Put simply, it should maintain the status quo in greenhouse terms.

  9. peter on 18/12/2018 at 9:43 pm said:

    can someone tell me what percentage of global warming is caused by methane compared with natural variations like the solar cycles and changes in jetstream etc.

  10. Brett Keane on 19/12/2018 at 1:03 pm said:

    Peter, in fact it can only have a minuscule effect at most, in line with the increase of mass. But other factors, unknown, may eliminate that even. We do not know, but zero is the most accurate estimate….. The fluid and expansive nature (Physics means nature) of gases gives rise to the Ideal Gas Laws which demonstrate what I write about here.
    Also, the radiative model they use ignores the ‘Equipartition principle’. This allows for the the most economical route of energy to the lowest point, that is, maximum Entropy. Which is unavoidable and happens in this case by convection and Latent Heat uplift by water vapour.
    The claimed radiative transfer happens hundreds to tens of thousands of times slower than kinetic energy transfer by collision between vibrating molecules. That is, it happens hardly at all! If the advocates had honest scientific enquiry and knowledge above the level of Geography professors, the current existential threat would not exist. It is imaginary. Brett

  11. Richard Treadgold on 19/12/2018 at 1:20 pm said:

    Thanks, Brett. I was particularly interested in this:

    The claimed radiative transfer happens hundreds to tens of thousands of times slower than kinetic energy transfer by collision between vibrating molecules. That is, it happens hardly at all!

    So, even though radiative transfers take place at a goodly fraction of the speed of light (much faster than kinetic energy transfer, I thought), they do not shift large amounts of energy—that is, they’re insignificant in warming the entire atmosphere—because of the minuscule concentrations and the low radiative absorption and transmission of those gases (especially compared with H2O)?

  12. Brett Keane on 19/12/2018 at 2:06 pm said:

    Richard, we had to go back to basic Physics to get this. And take in the broad picture. Warmistas sought a mechanism to justify their aims and CO2 soon proved too weak. So they seized on the great power of water vapour as a magnifier via radiative transfer. Not having the basic and broad physics us Applied Scientists have to learn to handle in the real NZ Where Nature reveals herself forcefully. But I digress.
    They missed the relative speeds of KE vibrations vs the far slower radiative transfer rates. Lightspeed only applies in conditions approximating clear space. I have seen a report and photos of it slowed down in a Bose Condensate for instance. Anyway, photons strike the atomic lines of force and uplift their vibration/energy rates and levels. Only if the receiver is of less energy, not the dishonest claims of higher and colder gas emanations warming the ground until the IR catastrophe that never happens, because we still live…. EMF flux is a Vector force and like a pilot’s side wind, only flows from higher force to lower. Full Stop.
    What I am getting at is that kinetics transfer energy vastly quicker en masse by means of more rapid intermolecular contact. Until altitude spaces molecules out enough to allow free path to Space, getting above 50% around 5km.
    Perusal of Google scholar and textbooks can show the relative speeds I claim.

  13. Richard Treadgold on 19/12/2018 at 3:36 pm said:

    That’s really interesting, thank you.

  14. Brett Keane on 20/12/2018 at 5:47 am said:
    Ron continues his tremendous work. Zero evidence of CAGW.
    What I try to do these days is picture what the gas molecule actually do in their c. 12angstrom cubes, and how they react to change. Under the understanding that physics is nature and mechanics is applied work

  15. Brett Keane on 21/12/2018 at 9:24 pm said:

    Glad he came to similar conclusions as me, back in 2003……
    My calculation for Standard Temperatue Pressure radiative emittance rates is about 170 thousand per second. Collision and Kinetic Energy exchanges are put at about one billion per second (Brittanica Vol 7, p917). From my reseach notes. Expansion and uplift on heating is very nearly instantaneous and can be quite violent. Hence the use of shock-heated gases as explosives, propellants, and a little at a time in passenger balloons. Cheers, Brett

  16. Gwan on 21/12/2018 at 11:53 pm said:

    Thank you Brett Keane for your recent posting of a paper written by Dr Allbrecht Glatzle on the non problem of livestock methane emissions.
    I met John Maunder who is know to a lot of you and he told me that he attended the first climate conference in Villach in Austria .He wrote about this and he said it was the very start of this climate change movement that has taken over the world .
    .John and his wife came and stayed with us and he spoke to our Rotary club and he rightly maintained that the three warming periods -MWP RWP and the earlier climate optimum were all warmer than the present
    warming that the world has experienced since the 1970s.
    John Maunder also attended the second conference in Rio de Janeiro and he told me that livestock methane emissions were never mentioned that he could recall.
    It was not till the Kyoto meeting that the New Zealand government understood on good advice that our country would be a very low emitter and could even be in credit .
    The Kyoto agreement was put in place and that was when methane was emissions were raised and adopted and our farmers have been pushing back since that time .
    Methane emissions from farmed livestock are an absolute non problem and this paper that Brett Keane has provided the link to says exactly that .
    The methane that is emitted has a half life in the atmosphere of 8 .4 years and is then recycled as CO2 and H2O and is absorbed by plants and the cycle continues .
    As Dr Glatzle states the methane was very stable in the atmosphere when cattle numbers were increasing around the world and then started a slow rise when farmed livestock numbers stabilized .
    The whole livestock methane is nonsense as the focus of the AGW climate change is the extraction and combustion of oil, gas and coal and cement manufacturing which releases large amounts of CO2 and methane that has been stored beneath the ground for millions of years .
    I am quite sure that the small amount of warming .6c that the doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere will only do good and help feed the increasing population of the world .
    I have seen no proof that the world will warm any more than that because of the doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere.

  17. Brett Keane on 23/12/2018 at 12:00 pm said:

    Thanks Gwan.
    To build on the circling of unknowns in ‘model-proven’ CAGW,
    shows how little climatista really know. We now see that CO2 and Water Tectonic recycling is many times greater than assumed by them.
    Prof Salby deduced this was the case and his time is coming, after the usual vicious defaming.
    Pathetic not to mention Pathological Marxism never could get it right, but that never has been what stopped them. Oncoming Trains of facts in their tunnels, that should do the trick……..

  18. Brett Keane on 31/12/2018 at 10:00 am said:

    And yes, Richard, radiation is a weaker force. Being only a result coincident to kinetic energy’s vibrations through magnetic lines of force by matter. Effect does not dominate cause in this Universe. Hence the negative fourth power relation. (Addendum from Brett)

  19. Maggy Wassilieff on 29/04/2019 at 7:28 pm said:


    I’ve just seen this clip on why Dairy Cows are the answer to Climate Change.

    Greens might have to do a rethink.

  20. Richard Treadgold on 01/05/2019 at 8:27 am said:

    Thanks, Maggy, I just watched this short video. It packs a number of flaws into its 100 seconds, but it does show that farming isn’t wall-to-wall environmental destruction. Then again, are the Greens interested in that good news? If preserving the planet really is their motivation, why do they deprecate both nuclear and hydro power generation? But any rethinking the Greens manage would be welcome.

  21. Mack . on 02/05/2019 at 8:04 pm said:

    Any thinking the Greens manage would be welcome.

  22. Brett Keane on 03/05/2019 at 10:44 am said:

    Glad to see the Greens are being slowed in their desire to cause mass starvation and more ‘roads of bones’. Perhaps my vote for Winston is paying off! As well as one email of info.
    The Herald ‘’ page on “The Country” in the Northern Advocate yesterday, p.13, was full of interesting info re the truth of it all. Which the scientific side underpinning NZ Farming has been stating for years. Green lies about us are quite thick on the ground, starting from the hippy days.
    Those many of us involved with Farm Forestry always knew our Community was the biggest Forester in the Nation, for instance. Some 1.4 million hectares! Plus pasture and soil sequestration. We have built better, richer, more organic soils on another c.15 million hectares. Not seen from the tarseal…… Perpetual forests do not exist because they exhaust the soil. Hence our northern Kauri Papa clays, fit for pottery but not seedlings without human help. Naturally, erosion renews soil once the trees die off, cyclically. Basic Soil Science at Massey. We can short circuit this by rescuing nutrients washed down to seabeds. Preferably when tectonics have uplifted them. But we can now also get nutrients by seawater filtration or dredging. Costings change with technology.
    Methane being in parts per billion, and actively cycling biologically too, cannot affect anything and its frequencies have little power anyway except as refrigerants…. (grin).
    Thanks all for the words of support. I intend to face the select committee if we can pin it down. But hopefully our allies in Parliament will sort it out as with Capital Gains Tax. Brett

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