Did Dinosaur Farts Warm the Planet?

Photo: Lehigh Valley, PA

I’m not one to chat casually about flatulence (blush), but the new research published by British scientists in Current Biology prompted me to push my f**t embarassment aside for a moment. Why? Because I’m always fascinated by climate change science.

The research suggests that Jurassic period dinosaur flatulence contributed significantly to a warmer climate 150 million years ago.

That’s potent stuff! They compared dinosaur digestive systems to modern day cows leading to a prediction that the annual output of methane gas—a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2—from the world’s population of dinosaurs would have been around 520 million tons. Today’s cattle population fart, er, produce 50-100 million tons of methane annually.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas that remains in the atmosphere for approximately 9-15 years. Methane is over 20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 100-year period and is emitted from a variety of natural and human-influenced sources. Human-influenced sources include landfills, natural gas and petroleum systems, agricultural activities, coal mining, stationary and mobile combustion, wastewater treatment, and certain industrial process.

Methane is also a primary constituent of natural gas and an important energy source. As a result, efforts to prevent or utilize methane emissions can provide significant energy, economic and environmental benefits. In the United States, many companies are working with EPA in voluntary efforts to reduce emissions by implementing cost-effective management methods and technologies.”

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