Doomed Planet

Facts and Lies about Cattle and Methane

The implementation of regulations and taxes intended to significantly reduce emissions of methane from livestock is unneeded, ineffective and based entirely on a highly misleading consideration of relevant scientific understanding. It amounts to a hypothetical solution to an imaginary problem and is being pursued for green votes in the name of virtue signalling, woke politics and publicity; not for any harm that can be either demonstrated or prevented (see references 1,2,3)

Genuine relevant expertise is conspicuously ignored. In fact, the whole mania about climate change has been promoted by a motley crew of otherwise third-rate academics claiming high level authority on all things to do with climate, for such is the conceit of self-declared ‘experts’ in climatology.  They attract generous funding and public attention by trumpeting predictions of  imminent disaster, be it from extreme weather and rising sea levels or any of the many other doom-laden scenarios. Any and all opposing evidence from genuine expertise in atmospheric radiation physics, meteorology, geology, oceanography, engineering, statistics, and the historical evidence of varying climate conditions has simply been ignored or denigrated, even censored.  Abundant and compelling information that does not support the alarmist claims is never acknowledged or addressed. (4,5,6)

Early in the alarmist campaign a few of the self-styled “climate experts” attempted to debate the opposing evidence and came away looking poorly informed. Further debate was thereafter avoided; since then, opposing evidence has been ignored or dismissed as “misinformation”. However, this also means that it stands unrefuted.

Unfortunately, today’s academically indoctrinated, politically correct journalists eschew the healthy scepticism of past journalism, being satisfied to regurgitate the alarmist press releases with no consideration for and no mention of the expansive body of well-founded dissent from alarmist orthodoxy. The result has been that the actual effects of greenhouse gases have been grossly misrepresented in the public debate and the whole developed world is being ignorantly herded by a handful of academic hacks into a lemming-like march towards a global economic collapse. Observe the energy crisis now gripping Europe as winter descends and wonder just where, and how much worse, it can get.

Vanishingly few political leaders have the technical background or broad understanding of the relevant science and technology to make their own informed assessment of the issues. Then, too, they face never-ending and overwhelming demands for their attention and attendance in regard to other matters.  Consequently, they must rely largely on a quick scan of mainstream news reports, the empire-building advice of government technocrats, and the pronouncements of academic grant seekers coloured by the overwhelmingly leftist political bias of the academy.

The following key scientific facts. clearly refute the methane alarmism.  These are all easily verified and un-controversial:

1/ Methane is a minute trace gas in the atmosphere. It comprises about 2 parts per million of the air (or one five-thousandth of 1%).  Although it is a strong absorber of infrared radiation, it only absorbs IR in two rather narrow bands of the broad IR spectrum. The much wider IR absorption spectrum of water vapor overlaps that of methane.  Although water vapor is a weaker absorber of IR in the narrow range of absorption by methane, the concentration of water vapor is about 10,000 to 20,000 times greater than methane. The IR absorbed by methane is in fact already fully absorbed by water vapor and any warming or cooling effect from more or less methane is effectively nil. ,8.,9.

2/ Methane (CH4) in the air oxidises into CO2 and water (H2O). The various figures cited for the greenhouse effect of methane being 20 or even 80 times greater than CO2 is simply bullshit.  Such estimates assume it will be in the air for a hundred years, when its half-life imposed by oxidisation is only about 5 years. Being halved in 5 years means than in 100 years only one- millionth of the starting amount would remain.

3/ Cellulose is the most abundant structural component of plants. Its decomposition by various microbes and digestion by a wide range of animal life generates methane. This is pervasive across all vegetated land. Plant material not eaten by livestock is only consumed by something else or decomposed by microbial activity with similar amounts of methane being produced. ,11.

4/ Trees (especially rainforest and mangroves) are major emitters of methane, both through their own metabolism and by acting as conduits bringing methane generated by microbial activity in the soil up into the atmosphere. A recent study has found that the Amazon rainforest is a major global source of methane. ,13.

5/ In Australia another major emitter of methane is termites. Every one of the untold millions of ant mounds across the continent is a methane generator. Any reduction achieved in consumption of plant material by livestock will just mean an increase in food for the termites.

6/ The bottom line is that reducing livestock will have little or no effect on the amount of methane being generated from an area of land.

7/ The current rate of increase for methane in the atmosphere is about 0.007 ppm/year. If this continues it will take about 270 years to double the current concentration. However, methane has sometimes stopped increasing for years so future levels are uncertain. In any case, the possible amount of increased warming by methane from livestock will be too trivial to detect.

In fact, the best estimates of possible warming from all greenhouse gas emissions is only about the same as you could get from moving to about 2 degrees less latitude, or about 50 metres lower altitude — similar to the amount of warming you may have often experienced while having an early breakfast on a summer morning. ,16.

The obsession with climate change when everything about it is well withing the limits of previous historical variability is looking more and more like another one of the episodes of mass mania which seem to occasionally erupt in most, if not all, human societies.  Such outbreaks appear to be totally immune to reason and evidence.  They also seem to have to run their course until either the severity of the consequences or boredom with stupidity sees a return to sanity.

One thing seems increasingly probable: we must surely be nearing the threshold for a major politico-economic reset, with major global impacts on energy, food, water supplies, employment, and world trade. Setting out to restrict our ability to cope with difficulties in all these same things at this time is beyond stupid.  To do so on the basis of hypothetical speculation, with only the most dubious of supporting evidence, and against abundant well-founded contrary evidence, enters the realm of idiocy.   

Walter Starck is a marine biologist and regular Quadrant contributor



The following links to further information are but a small sample of the compelling mass of sound evidence which refutes the alarmist claims regarding the threat to climate change from methane.

  1. NZ-proposes-taxing-cow-burps

  1. Methane emissions pledge a blow for farmers

  1. Farmers’ Chief Wary of Calls for United Nations Global Sustainability Standards for Livestock

  1. Kiwi Climatology: Land of the Long White Clods

  1. Congratulations, Australia. You’re Already at Net Zero

6.The methane myth: Why cows aren’t responsible for climate change

  1. Facts About Methane Ignored to Support Climate Narrative

  1. Methane warming exaggerated by 400%

  1. Relative Potency of Greenhouse Molecules

  1. Methane the Irrelevant GreenHouse Gas

  1. Methane the Irrelevant GreenHouse Gas-(video talk)

  1. Scientists Zero in on Trees as a Surprisingly Large Source of Methane

  1. Methane production and emissions in trees and forests

  1. Termites and Global Methane

  1. The greenhouse effect, summary of the Happer and Van Wijngaarden paper

  1. Methane and Climate


22 thoughts on “Facts and Lies about Cattle and Methane

  • ianl says:

    >”Early in the alarmist campaign a few of the self-styled “climate experts” attempted to debate the opposing evidence and came away looking poorly informed. ” [from Walter Starck article above]

    Steve Koonin and Andy Dessler in August this year engaged in rare public debate. Koonin was a high-level energy bureaucrat in the Obama administration (so he’s a warmie, but surprisingly honest and has published a book in 2021 delineating a great deal of evidence against alarmism). Dessler is a Texas University academic who is quite loud in promoting alarmism and has been game to publicly debate, at least occasionally, for quite some time (he famously lost one such debate to Richard Lindzen some 15 years or so ago).

    Further comment on this debate has little point. Best just to watch and absorb, although I do know it will make no difference to the quickly evolving large-scale trainwreck.

    • MichaelinBrisbane says:

      There’s a debate tonight in Perth at the Belmont RSL that could be interesting:
      Jo Nova and David Archibald take on Professor Peter Newman from Curtin University – Advisor to IPCC, 2018 Premier’s (WA) Scientist of the Year, and Councillor Ian Johnson – Current City of Swan elected councillor responsible for CoS Climate Sustainability Policies.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Good one Walter with plenty of references to back it up. I’m spreading this one far and wide. The poor old N.Zs., thick with cattle and sheep in the South Island and plenty of hardy, independently minded common sense farmers to back it up, yet stuck with a silly far left woman Prime Minister, who seems hell bent on wrecking the country, or giving the whole lot back to the traditional owners……. to wreck at their leisure.
    She makes me cringe every time I see her, with that huge smile permanently spread across her face, and I’ve mused over whether it’s a stick on one or real, or whether she can just zip it off when she gets home at night.

    • rod.stuart says:

      Cringeworthy. The buck-toothed Kiwi moron is indeed cringeworthy.
      Another thing I find cringeworthy is the folks on our side who continually point out that our “emissions” are so much less than those of China or India.
      The fact of the matter is that “emsisions” of imaginary “greenhouse gases” can not possibly have any effect on the weather whatsoever. That our own morons in Canberra actually seem to believe that the gas of life or methane have such effecd is more than cringeworthy. It is blatantly obvious that the real agenda has nothing to do with the “environment”, as Walter illustrates in this excellkent article.
      “Emsisions” of such matter as NOx and SO2 are indeed hamful, but they can be and are readily scrubbed from the exhaust of modern machinery.

  • March says:

    Great piece Walter. Straight to the point.

  • Stephen Due says:

    It is a scientific fact that nothing done in Australia to reduce ’emissions’ can have any measurable effect on the earth’s atmosphere or climate. Therefore it is impossible to know whether any laws or government actions intended to help ‘save the planet’ have been successful.
    It follows that all such projects are based on wishful thinking, and their real purpose is virtue-signalling. They are essentially religious. This might be alright, except for the costs, which are both predictable and measurable. We are paying a high price – intellectually, economically and socially – for the ideologies and associated policies imposed on us by the prophets and priests of climate ‘science’.


    After generous grants per the good old taxpayer, the warmist boffins have come up with carbon sequestration via storage of CO₂ underground. This was touted as helping save the planet. Have they thought of fart sequestration where Methane (CH₄), from cow farting, is captured and stored underground? Methane, being lighter than air, could conveniently be gathered, during milking, in cow sized gas bags as depicted in that photo of the Jersey cow.

    • STD says:

      Ah ,John, I think it’s sexist of them and very gender specific and rather dysphoric to blame all this methane on the girls- udder discrimination you might say.
      The one thing we gentlemen know for sure is that most definitely, Ladies definitely do not fart- definitely knot.

  • Biggles says:

    An excellent summary, Dr. Starck, but what percentage of the population would bother to read it if given the opportunity? Fewer still would understand it. How do we get the message across to the average brickies labourer, hairdresser or tyre-fitter? My answer is that we simply can’t as the following might show. I make a habit of asking twenty-somethings, ‘What book are you reading’? The answers are depressingly the same; nothing. I asked the question of an electrician who was working on our house recently. His reply? ‘I only read my phone’. So goodbye science, history, geography and a raft of other subjects. And guess what he reads on his phone; endless scare-mongering about climate-change, societal collapse, government malfeasance dressed up as virtue etc.

    • Lawrie Ayres says:

      The message will get across in their energy bills but it will need a conservative politician with a spine to explain why prices are so high. It is the latter that I fear will not appear. Sure Matt Canavan tells it how it is but he is kept firmly in the back row.

  • Jackson says:

    Great article, Walter.
    One caveat: the “lemming-like march towards a global economic collapse” should arguably read, “western societies’ economic collapse”. It is the West that is primarily in the grip of this self-destructive madness, while the rest of the world is either bemused, amused, profiteering or biding its time. Sure, the West is the big driver of global prosperity, and so the knock-on effects will reverberate massively around the globe and cause widespread misery. But today’s rising non-western powers are surely looking forward to their day of hegemony as the Western Project dies a death of a thousand self-inflicted cuts.

  • rod.stuart says:

    Walter covered the pertinent details well.
    Here are some more:

  • Brian Boru says:

    The last paragraph of this article is the scary one.
    Also, now timely, imagine how the people in flood prone areas are going to fare with electric cars when the power is off for days. These flooded places are now relying on pumps to move water, how will they do that with only electric power and no fossil fuel?
    How are our defence forces going to fare in the field? Long electric extension cords?

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    For the Right, as so well represented here at this site, the energy future has to be in fossil-carbon, in which the QO financial backers apparently have a vested interest. And in the longer term said fossil-carbon can be replaced by nuclear power; not in the form of Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island style reactors so much as by small ‘modular’ ones.
    And so we see the glorious future: modular nuclear power stations from Albania to Zimbabwe, and run by every sort of regime: from the Holy See through the Islamic republics and on to the tin-pot antidemocratic neofeudal dictatorships which used to be so fashionable across so much of the Third World; the Devil’s gift for Putins and Islamists etc, etc, alike.
    For the Right proper energy sources have to be capable of privatisation, and with properly metered delivery and trickle-down profit distribution. But nobody has yet devised any way to privatise the sun, the wind, the wave energy of the oceans, and the heat rising from the nuclear reactions far below us in the Earth’s core. And though the rivers can be dammed for water and hydroelectricity, it takes the massive resources of states to do it properly; as in this country’s Snowy Mountains Scheme.
    The decentralised power-for-everybody solar, wind and geothermal energies are the curse of Nature upon the Right, as the ever-dwindling commentariat at this anti-renwables site attests. And those renewable are kicking the bejasus out of energy company profits, so no new investment there. It’s even come to us just sayin ‘ah well,’ and asking ‘what’s on TV?’ Go there, and we find that even Sky News is stumped.

    • STD says:

      Absolutely brilliant Ian, as per your design. Just one omission. The renewables scam is kicking the bejesus out of the fossilised electricity grid at subsidised taxpayer largesse and expense. Win win – another left wing and right wing dingbat subsidised conjob.
      Poor old coal must surely be green with envy.
      It’s the rebate Ian, it’s the rebate – theft as we knew ,it is now renewable.
      Oh by the way, the Sun is already privatised- it’s fossilised, it’s called coal and it’s still hanging around Ian.
      SYDUNI – unlearn indeed. Maybe it’s time to say sorry and apologise-for existence is the result of solar fossil fuel.

    • STD says:

      By the by . They use the thermal Coal to melt the Quartz ,then add the coking Coal to arrive at the silicate to make the solar panels. It’s all Coal – every single inch of it, Ian.
      Again Ian to borrow from Professor Kreeft “ it’s the ‘S’ word- and Ian wait there’s more ,it’s more than just a four letter word, much more,- it’s sits very close to your sustainable dear old renewable socialist heart. PIGS.

    • 27hugo27 says:

      Why bother with us deplorables, IMac? Surely you’ll find like minded chicken littles on myriad sites. The weather {climate catastrophe to you} the past two years in SA has been two mild summers, two wet and cold winters. This years rain never ending, and the east coast, incredible. Bushfires and floods mean nothing, yet are hijacked for the cause – remember Flim Flannery? And now we’re debating termite mounds and cow flatulence. Totalitarianism/communism through the back door to shame the west. Was that you glued to a painting or sidewalk? The left in Gramscian or Alinskyan fashion has rendered the west impotent. How many masks that you and your ilk foisted on the world are clogging waterways and land fill?

  • Lewis P Buckingham says:

    ‘For the Right, as so well represented here at this site, the energy future has to be in fossil-carbon,’
    Are India,China and Russia right wing countries, or have I missed something?

  • Stephen says:

    Not just cows but what about human CO2? All of these foolish people around the world deliberately exercising are dramatically, and irresponsibly, increasing their CO2 emissions.
    All sport (netball first) and Gym facilities must be immediately shut down and people must be made to understand that they are breathing out a deadly poison. The only answer is that everyone should remain as still as possible.

  • IainC says:

    The methane experiment has already been done. Real scientists, not hashtag activists, have determined that levels of methane, and CO2, were of the order of a few percent, or even more, before the rise of photosynthesis flooded the world with oxygen and devoured all the CO2. That’s 10,000-20,000ppm or more of each, dwarfing current oxidizing-world levels and still allowing earth to be perfectly inhabitable. Indeed, it was perfect for the genesis and rise of photosynthetic organisms which needed exposure to the light to work, and were therefore exposed to extant global temperatures by default. Further indeed, the photosynthetic equation:
    6CO2 + 6H2O = sugar (CHO)6 + 6O2
    suggests that if we have 20% O2 now, we had 28% CO2 (by mass) originally in the atmosphere (spread over eons, to be sure) to generate it. Evolution is not going to work if there was 280ppm CO2, but it sure would if there were % levels to work with.
    The earth wasn’t a Venus when there were % levels of CO2 and methane, nor did it turn to an icy hell when those ferocious greenhouse gases disappeared (although it did under Milankovic forcings at various times). Conclusion? Water vapour dominates our first-order atmosphere-derived greenhouse settings. Why is 400ppm CO2 and 1.8ppm methane (!) of any concern?

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