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Written by Elma Steven | Updated on January, 2024

Impact of Methane Output From Various Sources

When compared to carbon dioxide, methane’s global warming potential over a century is around 28 to 36 times greater. The intestinal fermentation process is a major source of methane production in livestock, especially ruminants like cows, sheep, and goats.

Livestock with Most Methane Output Per Animal

Livestock, particularly cows, are a significant source of methane emissions. A single cow can belch about 220 pounds of methane per year, and globally, cows and other livestock animals are responsible for about 40% of methane emissions (UC DAVIS). Cattle methane has a 28-fold greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, while having a shorter half-life. Estimates of the impact of cattle to global warming are based on the 250 to 500 L of methane per day that ruminant animals may emit. The amount of feed consumed is one of the variables that affect the amount of methane emissions produced by cattle. 

  • Cows (Beef and Dairy Cattle): The size and capacity of the rumen in cows’ digestive systems make them the biggest animal generators of methane. Methane production is higher in dairy cows compared to beef cattle due to the increased intestinal fermentation caused by their high-energy diets. Although individual cow emissions of methane might vary, dairy cows typically release between 250 and 500 liters of methane day, whereas beef cattle release somewhat less.
  • Sheep and Goats: While these animals do contribute significantly to methane emissions, their smaller stature means that they do so to a lesser extent than cows. Sheep may typically create about 30 liters of methane daily.
  • Buffaloes: Buffaloes, like cows, digest their food by producing methane in their rumen. Although exact numbers could differ according on nutrition and breed, their methane production is similar to that of cattle.
  • Camels: Camels, while not as common as other livestock, also produce methane. However, they are more efficient in water and feed usage, which might impact their total methane emissions.

Livestock with Highest Population

  • Cattle: The global cattle population was about 940 million in 2022. This figure includes both beef and dairy cattle.
  • Pigs: Pigs make up a significant portion of the world’s livestock population, while the precise figure for 2024 is not given. Because pig farming is so massive over the world, we may anticipate the figures to be in the hundreds of millions.
  • Poultry (Chickens, Ducks, etc.): Poultry represents the largest group within the livestock sector. As of 2018, there were over 25.6 billion poultry birds worldwide, and this number has likely grown since then.
  • Sheep and Goats: These animals are also reared in large numbers around the world, though specific figures for 2024 are not readily available.
  • Other Livestock (such as Buffaloes, Horses, etc.): These animals contribute to the diversity of the global livestock population but in smaller numbers compared to the above-mentioned categories.

Methane Vs CO2 Concentration

When comparing the atmospheric concentrations of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), the former has increased at a faster rate in parts per billion (ppb) than the latter in parts per million (ppm). It is critical to note that methane and carbon dioxide are measured differently and have different rates of rise. The fast growth of methane is a major cause for worry about the effects of climate change, even if its absolute concentrations are smaller than those of carbon dioxide. Methane is a greater greenhouse gas in the short run. There are a lot of factors contributing to the rising atmospheric concentration of methane, including both natural and anthropogenic processes, including farming and the exploitation of fossil fuels. The fast rise in methane concentration highlights the need of tackling methane emissions in measures to mitigate climate change, due to its significant potential to cause global warming.

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Source: IPCC

Annual effective change in atmospheric concentration is higher for methane than CO2. 

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Top Sources of Methane

Percentage of Methane Sources:

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Source: Earth System Science Data

Regional Variation Across The Globe

Global Overview of Methane Emissions

Methane is the second most abundant anthropogenic greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide (CO2). It has a global warming potential approximately 28 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period.

Sources of Methane Emissions

Natural Sources:

  • Wetlands: Largest natural source, producing methane through bacterial decomposition of organic matter in anoxic conditions.
  • Other sources include termites, oceans, wildfires, and permafrost.

Anthropogenic Sources:

  • Agriculture: The primary source, especially from enteric fermentation in ruminants, manure management, and rice paddies.
  • Energy Sector: Includes emissions from coal mining, oil and natural gas systems.
  • Waste Management: Landfills and wastewater treatment produce methane through anaerobic decomposition.

Regional Variation in Methane Emissions

North America:

  • United States: Significant emissions from the energy sector, particularly natural gas and petroleum systems. Agriculture, especially cattle farming, also contributes.
  • Canada: Energy sector, notably oil sands and natural gas, are major sources. Wetlands contribute significantly too.


  • Western Europe: Predominantly from agriculture and waste management. The energy sector, especially coal mining in countries like Poland, also contributes.
  • Eastern Europe: Higher reliance on coal and aging gas infrastructure leads to more emissions from the energy sector.


  • China: World’s largest methane emitter. Major sources include coal mining, agriculture (particularly rice paddies and livestock), and waste management.
  • India: Agriculture is the primary source, with significant contributions from rice cultivation and livestock. Energy sector emissions are growing.

South America:

  • Brazil and Argentina: Large contributions from agriculture, particularly cattle ranching. Deforestation and associated biomass burning also contribute.
  • The Amazon Basin: Significant emissions from wetlands.


  • Sub-Saharan Africa: Predominantly from agriculture, especially livestock. Natural wetlands also contribute.
  • North Africa: Energy sector emissions, particularly from oil and natural gas industries.


  • Australia: Agriculture (especially cattle) is a major contributor. The energy sector, including coal mining and natural gas, also contributes.
  • New Zealand: Predominantly from agriculture, particularly dairy cattle and sheep farming.

Arctic and Antarctic Regions:Thawing permafrost in the Arctic is a potential large source of methane emissions.

Trends and Projections

  • Rising Global Emissions: Methane emissions have been increasing globally, with significant growth in emissions from the fossil fuel sector and agriculture.
  • Climate Change Feedbacks: Thawing permafrost and increased wetland area due to global warming could lead to higher natural methane emissions.
  • Regional Shifts: Economic development, dietary changes, energy policies, and climate change can shift regional patterns of methane emissions.

Mitigation Strategies

  • Improving Agricultural Practices: Including diet modification for ruminants, better manure management, and efficient rice cultivation methods.
  • Energy Sector Reforms: Reducing emissions from oil and natural gas systems through improved technology and reduced flaring.
  • Waste Management: Capturing methane from landfills and wastewater treatment for energy use.
  • Regulatory Measures: Implementing policies and regulations to reduce emissions.
  • Conclusion

Understanding and mitigating regional variations in methane emissions is critical for global climate change efforts. Each region’s specific sources and challenges require tailored strategies to effectively reduce methane output.

Action Plan to Reduce Impact of Methane Emmisions

Mitigation strategies for reducing methane emissions, particularly from agricultural sources, involve a combination of technological, management, and policy approaches. Here are some key strategies:

  • Improved Livestock Feed: Ruminant animals may drastically cut their methane emissions by changing their diet. This involves adding feed additives that decrease methane generation during digestion, such as fats, oils, and certain fibers.
  • Feed Supplements: Nitrates and certain types of seaweed are feed additions that have shown promise in lowering ruminants’ enteric fermentation and, by extension, their methane generation.
  • Breeding Low-Emission Animals: Selective breeding programs aimed at producing livestock with naturally lower methane emissions can be a long-term strategy. This involves identifying and breeding animals that are more efficient in their feed conversion and produce less methane.
  • Manure Management: Emissions may be drastically cut with better manure management practices, such as using anaerobic digesters to convert waste into biogas and covering manure storage facilities to trap methane.
  • Rotational Grazing: Implementing rotational grazing practices can improve pasture health and carbon sequestration in soil, which indirectly affects methane emissions from livestock.

Projected Cost to Reduce the Impact of Methane: 


Source: IEA

  • Rice Paddy Management: In rice cultivation, alternating wetting and drying, rather than continuous flooding, can reduce methane emissions.
  • Energy Industry Measures: Cutting down on gas and oil leaks is an important energy industry priority. Pipelines may have their emissions drastically reduced with regular inspection and maintenance as well as the deployment of cutting-edge leak detection technology.
  • Landfill Management: Capturing methane emissions from landfills using gas collection systems and converting it to energy is a practical approach in waste management.
  • Policy and Incentives: In order to promote and execute efforts to reduce methane emissions, government regulations and incentives are crucial. Carbon pricing methods, laws for emissions reporting and monitoring, and incentives for environmentally friendly technology are all examples of what this may entail.
  • Public Awareness and Education: Educating farmers and the public about the impacts of methane and how to reduce emissions is essential for widespread adoption of these strategies.
  • Research and Development: Continued investment in research and development is necessary to discover new methods and improve existing technologies for methane reduction.
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