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November 26, 2013

Just in case you were wondering, people can always create bigger panic over numbers if they just keep looking at them.

“We find greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and fossil fuel extraction and processing (i.e., oil and/or natural gas) are likely a factor of two or greater than cited in existing studies,” reports a paper describing the findings, “Anthropogenic emissions of methane in the United States”, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).

Apparently 1.5 to 1.7 times greater than thought…

The differences between the paper’s findings and the previous assessments appear to be due to the different ways that the estimates were determined. EDGAR and the EPA used what the Harvard Gazette describes as a “bottoms up” approach, in which the total amount of methane is calculated by extrapolating from “the amount of methane typically released per cow or per unit of coal or natural gas sold, for example.”

The new study took a “top down” approach, actually measuring methane in the atmosphere, then using meteorological data and statistical analysis to trace it back to its source.

So apparently measuring cows just doesn’t scale.

This also affects other methane production, such as natural gas.  In general, the authors encourage us to “do the Hitchhiker’s” and Don’t Panic.  Of course, everyone will find a reason to panic.  And of course… the results really won’t change, because this is actual, not theoretical.  Actual can be measured or not measured, it’s still actual.

Please don’t shoot any cows.

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