Saturday, August 25, 2007

How Moose Burps Are Destroying Glaciers

The latest villain in the demise of our planet’s precious ice reserves are the evil, horrible moose. Aye, a moose belches the methane gas equivalent of 2.5 tons of CO2 per year (2,100 kilograms), according to a Norwegian study reported by the Globe and Mail.

The amount of CO2 a moose burps equals the amount of greenhouse gas created by two round-trip flights across the Atlantic Ocean (from Oslo to Santiago).

In total methane, one Moose puts out about 220 pounds, but methane is 21-times as efficient at trapping heat in the atmosphere as CO2 (hence the 2.5 ton number earlier).

Ready for some crazy math? There are 140,000 moose in Norway and 500,000 in Canada. Together, they put the equivalent of 1.6 million tons of C02 into the atmosphere.

Among other things, this revelation reminds us of the impact our diet has on the environment. Humans get about a third of their protein from meat. The raising of animals to produce this meat accounts for one fifth of all greenhouse gasses.

In case you’re wondering, this problem is (more-or-less) unique to ruminants, or grazing animals. These creatures have the unique ability to break down grasses and create protein (an adaptation that humans do not have, and that’s a big reason we eat animals to get protein). The ability to make protein from grass is based on specialized microbes in the grazing creature’s gut. And it’s these microbes that produce methane as a byproduct of their work.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.