India's largest cow herd in the world makes it the third biggest global methane emitter. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential (GWP) 84 times greater than CO2. At COP26 in Glasgow, 104 nations agreed to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030. India, represented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, refused to join this agreement, as did the top two emitters China and Russia. Pakistan, the 8th largest methane emitter, did make the methane cut pledge.
|Top Global Emitters of Methane. Source: Financial Times
Cow burps and farts are major contributors to global warming. The digestive processes of ruminants, including buffalos and cows, produce methane, a greenhouse gas which is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the planet. India has over 300 million ruminants, about one-third of the global cattle herd population. Pakistan has about 100 million buffalos and cows.
|Methane Emissions From Fossil Fuels.
The world's top 5 agriculture methane emitters are 1. India, 2. China, 3. Brazil, 4. United States and 5. Pakistan.
|Methane Emission Sources. Source: Financial Times
Majority of the methane emissions in the industrialized world come from fossil fuels, including natural gas, oil and coal. In India, about 30% of the methane comes from industrial processes while 70% is contributed by livestock. In Pakistan, industrial and domestic consumption of natural gas contributes 40% of methane emission while the rest come from agriculture. There is strong correlation between industrial emissions and GDP intensity. The regions with the highest GDP per kilometer have the highest levels of industrial emissions of CO2 and methane.
|GDP Density Per Square Kilometer
Both industrial and agriculture sources of methane emissions need to be managed to achieve 30% cut by 2030 pledged by 105 nations. Industrial emissions will require plugging leaks in the production, transmission and distribution networks of natural gas.
There are a number of ideas being pursued to reduce emissions from buffalos and cows. These range from animal feed additives to produce less gas to the use of face masks.
A sensor in the animal face mask detects the percentage of methane that is expelled when the cow exhales. When methane levels exceed a certain limit, the mask channels the gas towards an oxidation mechanism inside, which contains a catalyst that converts methane into CO2 and water, and expels it from the device.
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