How are cow burps contributing to climate change?
AudiencePrimary school, Secondary school
Learning stageStage 2, Stage 3, Stage 4
Learning areaClimate change, Science
On this page...
The Earth’s climate is changing, in large part due to greenhouse gases being introduced into our atmosphere at an alarming rate. Greenhouse gases trap heat in our atmosphere, causing an overall increase in global temperature.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) makes up nearly 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions. CO2 is produced primarily though the burning of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil). Methane (CH4), the next most prevalent greenhouse gas, makes up 11% of global emissions and is produced during the production and transport of fossil fuels and by livestock.
Livestock produce methane in large quantities as a part of their digestive process. Of the animals which produce methane, including pigs, sheep, goats, and more, cows emit by far the most. What is so bad about the methane being released? And is there anything we can do to change it? Watch Charlotte’s video below to find out!
- Greenhouse gases can build up in the atmosphere and trigger an effect called the 'greenhouse effect'. This occurs when gases trap heat in our atmosphere which would normally escape into space.
- The greenhouse effect on its own isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Without any greenhouse effect, our planet would be as cold and lifeless as Mars. It is when the greenhouse effect gets out of control that it can be dangerous.
- Since the start of the industrial revolution and humanity’s use of fossil fuels, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased at a rapid rate.
- There are things we can do to slow and reverse the greenhouse effect. Switching to renewable energy sources, regulating emissions, and changing the diet of livestock can all move us in the right direction.
- Ruminates are animals with a unique digestion. Which greenhouse gas is produced in large amounts by ruminants?
- Inside the ruminant’s stomachs, what is breaking down food and creating gas?
- What has been found to reduce methane output when put into the diet of cows? Does it hurt the cows to eat it?
- How else can red seaweed help to combat climate change? How can we humans help to reduce climate change?
About the video
Cattle farming produces large amounts of the greenhouse gas methane, but a possible solution might live in the sea. In A More Polite Belch, Charlotte uses humour and engaging graphics to show that by adding the red seaweed, Asparagopsis, to animal feed, the digestion of cows and sheep can be modified to drastically reduce their methane output.
Sponsored by the University of Sydney, the Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize is a national short film competition that encourages school students to communicate a scientific concept in a way that is accessible and entertaining to the public while painlessly increasing their science knowledge. It is intended to support budding young scientists across the nation, who will be our future leaders in research, discovery and communication. You can learn more about the Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize here.