February 26, 2009

Australia To Study Farm Animal Gas Emissions

The Australian Agriculture Minister said the government will invest A$26.8 million ($17.4 million US) to support research that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock.

Methane coming from farm animals accounts for some 12 percent of the country's yearly greenhouse gas emissions. They are the third largest source of carbon emissions in Australia.

Agriculture Minister Tony Burke said farmers will have to pay increased transport and fertilizer costs as a result of the new initiative.

"There is no cost-free method of dealing with this," said Burke.

"Some of this goes to breeding options, some of it goes to better feed options, some of it goes to dealing with the bacteria in the stomach of the animal to try to reduce the amount of methane that then comes out of the mouth," he said.

A single beef grazing cow in Australia accounts for an estimated 1,500 kilograms (3,300 pounds) of carbon per year, Burke said in a statement.

There are 85 million sheep, 31 million cows and 3 million goats grazing in Australia. Methane emissions from these animals account for 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural sector and 12 percent of the nation's total emissions.

"We will invest in science to ensure that productivity grows while the industry adapts to lower emissions, particularly as the world food shortage continues," Burke said.

Professor Ross Garnaut, the government's top climate change advisor, last year said that part of the problem could be solved if Australians would eat more kangaroos and reduce the number of farm animals.

According to AFP, Australia has vowed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least five percent from 2000 levels by 2020 to help fight climate change, including the introduction by 2010 of a carbon trading scheme.

In a local radio interview Wednesday morning, when asked if he thought the plan is feasible, Burke said: "Those questions are better answered by the scientists. We've provided them with the research dollars, so that they can find out the answer as effectively as possible.

But the objective, is we want to be able to keep producing, we want people to be able to continue to get their steaks and be able to have an absolutely minimal impact on price."


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