When President Obama explained his plan to save the planetary climate in a speech delivered at Georgetown University on Tuesday, he did not mention cattle, but he did state his desire "to make sure that we're not seeing methane emissions."
Some of those, the government has made clear, are of bovine origin.
Back in 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency published a paper explaining its effort to develop a model "to estimate methane from enteric fermentation in cattle."
"During digestion, microbes resident in an animal's digestive system ferment food consumed by the animal," the paper explained. "This microbial fermentation process, referred to as enteric fermentation, produces methane as a byproduct, which can be exhaled or eructated by the animal."
So? Have not animals been eructating methane for millennia?
"Cattle are the largest contributing livestock species to enteric fermentation in the United States, accounting for over 95 percent of the methane emissions from this source," said the EPA paper. "These emissions account for almost 20 percent of the total anthropogenic methane emissions in the United States."
Well, climate-change cognoscenti can find an answer in the Climate Action Plan the White House released Tuesday in conjunction with the president's speech.
"Curbing emissions of methane is critical to our overall effort to address global climate change," says the president's plan. "Methane currently accounts for roughly 9 percent of domestic greenhouse gas emissions and has a global warming potential that is more than 20 times greater than carbon dioxide."
In this view of things, the dairy cow that produced the milk you fed to your child and the steer that yielded the steak you hope to throw on the grill next Saturday are threatening the planet.
"Cattle Eructation Leads to Global Devastation" may be too simplistic a bumper sticker for their cause -- but they are unmistakably saying cattle eructations are at least one cause leading toward global devastation via manmade (or is it man- and bovine-made?) global warming.
That is why, even back in 2007, when George W. Bush was president, the EPA's cattle-eructation experts were developing a plan for monitoring methane emissions.
"In order to more accurately characterize emissions from this source, EPA has recently focused its attention on adopting and improving the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Tier 2 method for estimating methane emission from cattle," said the EPA paper.
Indeed, EPA planned to track -- at least through estimates -- what American cattle were doing on a month-by-month basis.
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