Cultivating a special type of seaweed and feeding it to cattle, sheep, and other grazing animals will greatly reduce methane emissions from livestock.
Methane is responsible for more than a fifth of all the warming we’ve experienced in recent decades. A ton of methane released today will cause eighty-four times as much warming as a ton of CO2 over the next twenty years. Nearly a third of all methane being added to the atmosphere by human activity comes from cattle and other domesticated animals, like sheep and goats, that digest plants in a special stomach called a rumen. Surprisingly, the most promising solution to reducing methane emissions from these domesticated land animals comes from adding a special type of seaweed to livestock feed. Scientists have discovered that a type of red algae in the genus Asparagopsis contains compounds that stop animals with rumens from emitting methane. Recently, scientists discovered that replacing just 0.2 to 1 percent of the diet of these animals with Asparagopsis can reduce their methane production by 80 percent or more. The race is on to develop ways to farm the seaweed on a massive scale, as well as to learn how to process and supply Asparagopsis to farmers and ranchers who often live far from the ocean. Reducing methane emissions from livestock with Asparagopsis feed supplements would have a greater impact on slowing the warming of our planet over the next decade than removing all cars, planes, and ships on Earth.