Grist Wonders, Is Breaking Wind Bad For Climate Change?

Fortunately, the answer finally ends up being “no, they don’t.” I say fortunately, because if the answer was “yes,” all of us deniers Realists would run out and eat spicy food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and you know where that would lead.

Q: Dear Umbra,

The other day I was sitting on the couch after a day of eating an onion-rich diet and wondered … how much impact can a person have on climate change by avoiding flatulence-producing foods?

Resourcefully yours,
Rob D.

A. Dearest Rob,

I appreciate your desire to not turn the Earth into a Dutch oven, Rob. So let me cut to the cheese, if you will. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse of the National Institutes of Health, “most people produce about 1 to 4 pints a day and pass gas about 14 times a day.” With a current world population at around 6,908,035,754 people, that’s a lot of broken wind. (Makes you think about a whole new set of possibilities in the realm of renewable wind energy.) But what does all that gas amount to when broken down?

Believe it or not, the gas we pass is made mostly of odorless vapors from carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and, on occasion, methane which as you know is a potent greenhouse gas. (The stench comes from bacteria in the large intestine that break down food and release gases with sulfur.)


Notice Lester Brown did not say anything about human wind farms. I hate to burst your bubble here, Rob, but it does seem to me our individual, very personal emissions are not contributing all that significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. It would be wise to avoid getting anal over matters such as this.

Darn it. I was looking forward to some unhinged discourse and a war against breaking wind. Putting extra taxes on places that serve spicy food. Of course, as Umbra points out, eating “factory-farmed meat” is bad, because those veggan cows are fart machines. Instead, go out and kill wild cows and pigs yourself!

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2 Responses to “Grist Wonders, Is Breaking Wind Bad For Climate Change?”

  1. Tano says:

    It is just stunning to see how the climate change deniers, after being engaged for years in trying to prevent society from dealing with this issue, still do not understand the most basic facts regarding greenhouse gasses.

    Flatulence, whether it be human or cow sourced is not in any way part of the problem with climate change. It would not be part of the problem even if we farted 10x more than we do, and if it were all methane.

    Although this is quite a simplification, it might help you understand the basics here. You can consider that there is a fixed amount of carbon in the world. This carbon cycles through various phases (remember from highshcool biology classes those pictures with cows dumbing and arrows pointing to plants and then the sky, and then arrows leading back to the cow)?

    Carbon makes up a large part of the stuff of plants. Cows eat the carbon and incorportate some of it, and exhale and fart out more of it. Bacteria consume the manure and incorporate some of the carbon, and excrete some of it. People eat the cows, incorporate some of the carbon in the meat, exhale some of it and fart out some it. The carbon dioxide, or methane that is exhaled and farted out spends some time in the atmosphere, then gets absorbed by plants.

    It is a stable cycle. Even if it is speeded up by large population sizes, it still is stable. A finite amount of carbon, cycling around. There is no net accumulation in the atmosphere, thus ZERO problem with climate change.

    The problem that is causing climate change is the artificial ADDITION of “new” carbon into the system. I put quotes around “new” because the carbon here is actually very old – fossilized carbon, in coal or oil, or natural gas. It is “new” in the sense that it has not been part of the natural carbon cycle for millions of years. It has been sequestered away in an entirely inert form, deep underground. throughout the whole time that land animals, including us, have evolved.

    We are now digging up these fossil fuels and ADDING them to the carbon cycle. We burn them, but they do not then go back down underground and become removed from the cycle. They remain, and the result is that ever increasing amounts of carbon get stored in various “sinks” in the cycle. Plants and animals can only store, temporarily, certain amounts of carbon – most all of the excess is stored either in the ocean or the atmosphere. Hence, changes in the acidity of the ocean, and the accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

    Farting or exhaling is not the problem at any scale.

  2. Axel Edgren says:

    Tano, the people behind this blog went all-in on the anti-eco and anti-science hatred long before they even bothered to check up on the science (not that they are giving it any good-faith scrutiny today either).

    They are anti-left and anti-government zealots, and believe the market can do no wrong – the very idea that producers and consumers can act in short-sighted ways and need government oversight to prevent societal economic costs is anathema to them.

    They could know everything you know about the climate and be as aware of the difference between exhaled CO2 and CO2 that has been stored as you are, and they would still stick to their guns.

    You can’t wake those who are pretending to sleep.

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