Most of us consider farts to be little more than a mild embarrassment. But cow farts (and burps) are a scourge upon the Earth, releasing heat-trapping methane that wreaks havoc on our climate. Now, heroic scientists want to put an end to global warming-by-flatulence once and for all.
While it is fun to talk about farts, really most of the methane comes out the front end of the cow.
My takeaway is that methane deserves more attention than it’s getting relative to the CO2 emissions we’re flipping out about, especially if it’s true that climate change may result in the release of large amounts of methane trapped underground/undersea.
If pivoting somewhat to methane relieves some of the economic pressure that CO2-focused legislation is causing, then the pivot seems like an opportunity to have our cake (cut climate change risk) and eat it too (lessen the economic hit from the CO2 focus) somewhat.
On the other hand, Hoatzins don’t produce great mounds of birdshit. The reason that urban Canada geese are such profuse shitters is that they are grazers, but lack the Hoatzin’s gut adaptations for getting the most out of a diet consisting mainly of leaves. So they have to eat a lot of fodder in order to get anything out of it with their inadequate digestive systems, and of course this results in a massive output.
On the plus side, geese can still fly really well.
When it comes to major anthropogenic sources of methane (an important greenhouse gas), livestock and leaky natural gas wells and pipelines might come to mind. However, rice cultivation is also among the largest sources. Microbes in wetlands, where water saturation leads to low-oxygen conditions, produce most of the world’s methane, and rice paddies are essentially human-controlled wetlands.
For the more biologically minded, you may want to go read the paper because it isn’t clear from the article that the “barley gene” is actually a transcription factor. Which is way cool because of all the genes I would expect to fail when moved from one species to another, transcription factors are pretty high on the list.
For the non-biologists in the room, transcription factors are the “volume knobs” of the gene world and it looks like these folks added a new one that goes to 11.
The gas that gets pumped into your house has no smell. This means the first sign you get that you’re inhaling gas is a lack of oxygen to the brain. To correct that problem, companies use a chemical characteristic of badly made wine.