International Center for Climate and Global Change Research CHESS Cluster Leading Center

A new paper titled “Methane emission from global livestock sector during 1890–2014: Magnitude, trends and spatiotemporal patterns” was published in Global Change Biology by Dangal et al., 2017.

Human demand for livestock products has increased rapidly during the past few decades largely due to dietary transition and population growth, with significant impact on climate and the environment. The contribution of ruminant livestock to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has been investigated extensively at various scales from regional to global, but the long-term trend, regional variation and drivers of methane (CH4) emission remain unclear. In this study, we use Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Tier II guidelines to quantify the evolution of CH4 emissions from ruminant livestock during 1890–2014. We estimate that total CH4 emissions in 2014 was 97.1 million tonnes (MT) CH4 or 2.72 Gigatonnes (Gt) CO2-eq (1 MT = 1012 g, 1 Gt = 1015 g) from ruminant livestock, which accounted for 47%–54% of all non-CO2 GHG emissions from the agricultural sector. Our estimate shows that CH4 emissions from the ruminant livestock had increased by 332% (73.6 MT CH4 or 2.06 Gt CO2-eq) since the 1890s. Our results further indicate that livestock sector in drylands had 36% higher emission intensity (CH4 emissions/km2) compared to that in nondrylands in 2014, due to the combined effect of higher rate of increase in livestock population and low feed quality. We also find that the contribution of developing regions (Africa, Asia and Latin America) to the total CH4 emissions had increased from 51.7% in the 1890s to 72.5% in the 2010s. These changes were driven by increases in livestock numbers (LU units) by up to 121% in developing regions, but decreases in livestock numbers and emission intensity (emission/km2) by up to 47% and 32%, respectively, in developed regions. Our results indicate that future increases in livestock production would likely contribute to higher CH4 emissions, unless effective strategies to mitigate GHG emissions in livestock system are implemented.

Last modified: August 9, 2017