It's a different kind of toxic emission, but scientists have indeed measured the environmental impact of the methane gases let out by flatulent livestock. And now the President of Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (UBA), Jochen Flasbarth, wants farmers to shoulder more responsibility for climate protection.
"In the medium term we could at least include the large livestock farmers in the emissions trading system," Flasbarth told Die Welt. This would mean that farmers would have to buy the relevant number of pollution credits corresponding to the size of their farm.
"Cattle contribute greatly to high methane emissions that cause a lot of climate damage," Flasbarth said.
If – instead of keeping the animals in stables – industrial cattle farmers raised them outdoors thus changing their diet these emissions could be lowered. "We make the mistake of raising cattle indoors and importing their feed from overseas."
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In 2011, farming accounted for 8% of climate-relevant emissions in Germany. If the energy used to make fertilizers and run tractors, and emissions from moorland used for agricultural purposes, are factored in – that figure rises to 13%.
Also with regard to climate protection, Flasbarth supports drastically reducing the amount of fertilizers used. "In the environment, nitrogen converts to nitrous oxide which causes 300 times more damage to the environment than carbon dioxide," said Flasbarth.
Flasbarth says in Germany alone 3.2 million tons of pure nitrogen are released into the environment every year.