Dear Editor:

Excess greenhouse gas production, including carbon dioxide and methane, has disrupted the global carbon cycle. One ton of methane results in the same level of warming as 25 tons of carbon dioxide.

By belching and producing manure, a single dairy cow generates about 400 pounds of methane per year, which is equivalent to 5 tons of carbon dioxide. For perspective, a car averaging 25 miles per gallon emits about 1 ton of carbon dioxide every 2,500 miles; therefore, the annual greenhouse gas emissions of a single dairy cow are comparable to driving 12,500 miles.

U.S. forests sequester 11% of annual carbon dioxide production. Because carbon accumulation increases continuously with tree size, reforestation requires decades to achieve the level of carbon sequestration provided by a similarly sized maturing forest. Growing existing forests to their full ecological potential is an effective and immediate approach that can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Considering many predictions have underestimated the rate of global warming, the UT Dairy Farm's decision to clear-cut 92 forested acres is inconsistent with the reality of the climate crisis.

In the future, carbon credits will be an industry currency that are bought and sold. Dairies will have roofs covered in solar panels or land leased for windmills, with farms receiving cash and carbon credits. Forested property will be awarded credits based on estimated levels of carbon sequestration. Carbon neutral dairies will have a production cost advantage versus dairies having to buy offsetting credits. I sincerely hope the UT Institute of Agriculture can lead in this vision.

David F. Edwards, DVM

Ellejoy Crossing Way

Walland

(1) comment

Greengal

Here’s the letter with a short edit and references:

Excess greenhouse gas production, including carbon dioxide and methane, has disrupted the global carbon cycle. One ton of methane results in the same level of warming as 25 tons of carbon dioxide.

By belching and producing manure, a single dairy cow generates ~400 lbs of methane per year, which is equivalent to 5 tons of carbon dioxide. For perspective, a car averaging 25 mpg emits ~1 ton of carbon dioxide every 2,500 miles; therefore, the annual greenhouse gas emissions of a single dairy cow are comparable to driving 12,500 miles. Unfortunately, the cows produce only 45% of a dairy's annual greenhouse gas emissions.(1,2)

US forests sequester 11% of annual carbon dioxide production. Because carbon accumulation increases continuously with tree size, reforestation requires decades to achieve the level of carbon sequestration provided by a similarly sized maturing forest. Growing existing forests to their full ecological potential is an effective and immediate approach that can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.(3,4)

Considering many predictions have underestimated the rate of global warming, UT Dairy Farm's decision to clear-cut 92 forested acres is inconsistent with the reality of the climate crisis.(5)

In the future, carbon credits will be an industry currency that are bought and sold. Dairies will have roofs covered in solar panels or land leased for windmills, with farms receiving cash and carbon credits. Forested property will be awarded credits based on estimated levels of carbon sequestration. Carbon neutral dairies will have a production cost advantage versus dairies having to buy offsetting credits. I sincerely hope UT Institute of Agriculture can lead in this vision.

1. Rita, CA. Symposium review: Modeling greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farms. J. Dairy Sci. 101:6675-6690, 2017

2. EPA-420-F-18-008 March/2018.

3. Moomaw, WR, Masino, SA, Faison, EK. Intact forests in the United States: Proforestation

mitigates climate change and serves the greatest good. Front. For. Glob. Change 2:1-10, 2019.

4. Stephenson, NL, Das, AJ, Condit, R, et. al. Rate of tree carbon accumulation increases continuously with tree size. Nature 507:90-93, 2014.

5. Oppenheimer, M., et. al., Discerning experts. The practices of scientific assessment for environmental policy. Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 2019.

David F. Edwards, DVM

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