Importance of Natural Resources

Bill Nye on Climate Change: We Could Engineer Low-Methane Cows — or Eat Less Meat

Erin: Hey Bill. I’m Erin and I’m from Scotland. I went vegan after I watched documentaries
like Before the Flood and Cowspiracy. It presented me with lots of terrifying information
such as that from the FAO which suggests that 14.5 to 18 percent of the world’s global
emissions are due to animal agriculture. However, Worldwatch suggests it’s closer
to 51 percent. I was wondering if you knew why there was
such a difference between these two figures and whether you think that adopting a vegan
diet is the best thing we can do as individuals for the planet. Bill Nye: Erin, you raised a very good point. I don’t know why the two figures in those
two studies, the documentary and the—was it a scientific paper?—are discrepant, but
it probably has to do with trying to assay or figure out how much greenhouse gas is created
by cattle or other livestock. And the problem, everybody, is that livestock
eat plants; then bacteria in their livestock stomachs metabolize the plant material into
methane, natural gas. And you can make all the jokes you want, but
methane is a very strong greenhouse gas. The first place I’d look to find the reasons
for the discrepancy between the two figures is in the amount of greenhouse gas supposed
to come from a cow or a sheep or goat. So with humans, the human population getting
so big that we are raising so many farm animals, it’s very reasonable that we’re creating
a tremendous amount of extra methane that wouldn’t otherwise be there in the atmosphere. And that is causing global warming and climate
change to happen more rapidly than would otherwise. However, if humans weren’t there animals
would be all over the place anyway; it’s not clear that they’d be in these concentrations
though. It could be a difficult thing to measure,
but it’s also reasonable that agriculture researchers are going to produce or breed
farm animals that produce less methane by changing the bacteria that are in their stomachs
that metabolize plant matter. To get all the way down to a plant based diet
might be tricky for a lot of people. However, it seems like a good idea. Check in with me in a few months, because
I noticed that my diet is becoming increasingly vegetarian, and so in the next little while
I may be all the way over. “Why aren’t you now Bill?” That’s a great question. I’m working it—I’m working on it. It’s a very interesting question and and
an important one. And literally a huge one because we’re talking
about the Earth’s atmosphere. Thank you Erin.

Reader Comments

  1. Hi Bill, love this series and your books. I feel like in this case you kinda dodged the question a little and could have gone a little deeper into her question about the discrepancy in figures and talked about the current scientific consensus on the subject and given your personal opinion. I do love your tangents but it'd be nice to get a little bit more focus.

  2. GMO humans to be vegetarians/vegans…? Better way to produce animal protein than conventional farming that is environmentally responsible and ethical towards animals should be the focus.

  3. Hey Big Think why don't you have someone answering the questions whose got something more than a b.s. in mechanical engineering?

  4. Bill Nye has tried to really oversimplify something that he should not do. Most of pastureland is wasted land if not put to use. Food grown from cattle, goats, sheep, and yes even wild animals like wildebeast all produce methane from pastureland. Yet that means food that land would never yield to humans. It is not suitable land. And then go to feedlots where the actual methane produced is 38% less.

    There are some natural processes of grasslands. These processes result in a complex carbon cycle and hydro-geological cycles that will assure the conversion of the grasses grown converted to CO2 and CH4. The net result is actually the same as if the cattle ate the grass and produced methane. The amount of green house gas is the same and in balance…naturally. A process step always left out of the carbon cycle in declaiming cattle is what happens under the soil and in the aquifers. They mey be slow and longer termed but be assured that same carbon will surface eventually in the form of a gas. In the meantime I will enjoy more than beans and veggies (gas formers) and rice (oh please Bill do not investigate the methane produce from rice paddies). The environmental movement is just searching for targets…leave farmers alone.

  5. Lemme get this straight, some hypothesize that global warming is the result of farm animal farts? 🐮🐷💨

  6. This whole "new vegan world order" is psychotic and terrifying. Millions of people would die. End of story. Stop with your insanity. I am officially unsubscribing from this channel, and have lost all respect for Bill Nye for not pointing out how insane these people are.

  7. Don't forget the entire industry involved in farming the animals. The fossil fuels required to transport cattle, to create the fertilisers (phosphate industry) that promote plant growth (which unfortunately deteriorate the soil so it becomes unusable after some time and poisons lakes and rivers and the oceans). All the land space cleared to allow cattle to graze, they're literally cutting down the amazon forest to make space for more cows to eat grass, it's fucking stupid but there you go. We are destroying highly diversified habitat for the purpose of producing more meat which is NOT healthy for you. We have something like 80 billion cows or some shit that are being raised to feed the worlds population, just talking biomass that's a very very large population needing feeding that are totally reliant on their captors growing their food. We spend crazy amounts of space and energy to create a product (meat) that is not a very good substitute for plant material. Hopefully Bill knows of these things, it seems if he had done much research he would but maybe he has friends he doesn't want to piss off by being an advocate for a no meat society or at least very little meat society as it is right now we are stuck in a cycle of destruction and our diet reflects this and actually perpetuates this problem.

  8. would the gas produced by vegans increase the production of methane gas. to me we would just be replacing animal methane gas with the methane being produced by 9+ billion humans producing gas. then there is the economic question. do we kill off ALL the meat creatures in the world? would that not be against the vegan lifestyle? I personally think that we could eat meat in moderation and eat a bit more fruit and vegetables we could be healthier and in doing so reduce the old flatulence. It certainly has worked to improve my health a bit.

  9. I'm wondering why all the hate. He actually did say that a vegan diet isn't for everyone (paraphrased), but reducing meat is a good idea for everyone (not even going full vegetarian). Especially since excessive meat consumption increases rates of colon (and similar) cancers. Just eat smaller portions of everything.

    Also, I wonder how much methane is caused by all the uneaten food we send to the dump each year. Any one know?

  10. Could one not help solve the methane/CO2/H20 greenhouse gas !CRISIS! by encouraging the Bill Nye(s), and all who love them, to self-martyr?

  11. Why even try to solve the methane problem in cows when we can simply stop eating cows?

    Even if cows produced zero methane, they still consume a vast amount of water that we need. They still pollute a vast amount of land and water, which we need. They still take up far more land than we have to offer. They are still conscious, sentient beings who want to live. They would still require food, which we would have to grow (using up more land and water…).

  12. Bill Nye what a joke. Cows farting? really? Climate change is occurring because of a very rapid decline in the power of the Earth's magnetic shield from since the 1800's, thus letting more cosmic and solar radiation into our atmosphere. At the current rate of decline, we will be a Mars like planet by the year 3000. They know this but there is nothing they can do about it so they do not inform the general public.

  13. This is a little story about a funny little species who called themselves
    "Homo sapiens sapiens" the "wise wise human"

    We could engineer low-methane cows OR eat less meat
    low-methane cows it is

  14. How much land will we have to clear to grow all the food for 7 billion vegan people today, let alone 10 billion hungry people in the future, the predictions are staggering. New agricultural practices will help, but the requirement of higher protein plant based foods will most likely require greater GMO crops to be developed & who knows where that will end. The study going on into gut microbes may be one of the answers to the reduction of intestinal methane gas production.

  15. wow…. without modern technology (aka regular checkups and supplements) vegans wouldn't be able to exist. which is ironic because most vegans i know are all about "mother nature over technology"

  16. Eat less meat? No thanks. I've tried fake bacon, I'd rather watch the world burn and not give up eating pigs.

  17. Most people know the facts that prove eating meat is bad for the environment/planet/their own health, but many people's brain are addicted to the serotonin that is produced when they eat meat. One can wean themsel off of this addiction or go "cold turkey" – depends on how much you care about the planet/future generations/sentient animals being slaughtered so you can consume their decaying flesh …

  18. Cows are part of the Current Carbon Cycle. They convert the carbon from one form to another. The problem wouldn't exist if we stopped introducing carbon from sequestration (fossil fuels).

  19. wow, with all the videos of Bill against climate change and climate change deniers i thought for sure he was at least a vegetarian, unbelievable Bill, get on it!

  20. Oh boy bill, first it was your inaccurate clames of C02 causing global warming , for which there is no evidence that supports that, now you say its methane? you know that C02 is only 3% of the greenhouse gases. methane is much more of a green house gas… However, we have seen no correlation of C02 with global temps and i suspect there is nothing with methane too. infact, global temps seem to lead C02 levels throughout the past 1000 years. your are a science guy (he he) so , provide some science! please. no anedotal evidence. thats NOT science!

  21. We could build large, airtight greenhouses around their pastures, equipped with ventilation systems that recycle the air, filter the methane, and store it, without releasing it into the atmosphere. Their panes would be made of the same material used for sunglasses. But that would all probably be expensive. If most of the methane is coming from their waste, then we simply need to scoop up all of the manure and store it in airtight containers.

  22. Are you kidding me? Bill… first of all, nice to see you doing a video sober for a change. At times I see you intoxicated (though I wonder even now?). Butt even now, you seem drunk on info.

    Green house gases caused by farting is NOT an actual cause. Farting doesn't contribute to green house gases no matter how many farm animals or people on Earth are farting up a storm. You unload a fart and it just withers into the low level area. It doesn't get anywhere near the high atmosphere as carbon based power plants and cars do.

    Please do proper research. This greatly makes you look unreliable as a scientist.

    If you don't believe me, question how many people and animals have being living on Earth since the begining of time, farting up storms from sea to shining sea, and yet no report of climate change has being noted until our centuries.

    Industries and man made machinary are the cause of climate change, Bill, not farting.

  23. Given the overwhelming influence of water vapor on the greenhouse effect– far beyond methane and carbon dioxide– and that the primary driver of atmospheric water vapor (ie cloud cover) is solar activity, clearly we need to impose a huge tax on the Sun.

    Fix this Bill. You're a science guy, right? Right?

  24. The problem is being vegetarian or vegan also brings their own set of problems than includes use lands from wild ecosystems. A diet with more vegetables is true more healthty but extremes, any extreme, are not the best option.

  25. We need to get this horse's a$$ to close his orifice and reduce global stupidity. He's a wanabe scientist with an ME degree and an agenda.

  26. Maybe the answer is to go to strictly veal and suckling pig. They are around for a much shorter time therefore fart and burp less. Does this sound as crazy as Bill?

  27. Dr Bill I really admire your work but here is my suggestion. Why do humans play God and constantly try to change the world, cut trees, animal domestication, consuming more beef etc, Making cows fart less will be as bad as making humans fart less. Its the body natural way to discharge excess gas. I am sure its not a good idea to suppress that process. It be FAR better if humans start to make a conscious shift in the way they think and treat the environment around them. Instead of treating every thing like a commodity respect life in all forms. Live in harmony and balance. If you must eat meat consume little or if you can go vegan or vegetarian. Cattle farms in general are a problem for the environment as forests and land are being cut down to raise so much cattle for the beef industry. Makes no sense. Making cows fart less is not the real solution. The REAL solution is to find a way to change human behavior ! Maybe its time to genetically modify human brain PROFESSOR ! Its the root case of all major problems in the world.

  28. bill, i love science but youre the kind of science nerd that thinks science can never be bad. we dont need to engineer cows or be vegan, we can simply get rid of factory farms and maintain a healthy meat-included diet like the Mediterranean diet which is responsible for keepin people alive til 109. GMOs arent entirely dangerous, but they ARE entirely unnecessary. just because its sceince, doesnt mean we should persue it. all science isnt good. in fact disasters happen both in real life and in movies because of persuing bad science. lterally like every zombie movie is a scientists fault. most non alien monster movies.

  29. Adressing such questions is like… is debating the finger that points at the moon. If a boat is sinking, no one cares about how big is the hole or how it got there, we all just want to get to the life boat or plug the hole – that is it.

  30. Bill is an idiot. There is no greenhouse. The climate changes due to solar radiation and nothing else. CO2 is at a historical low.
    Because the level rises following warming and we are coming out of an ice age. This kind of lunacy is a result of living in a city and having no knowledge of the natural world.

  31. What about the day humans will be able to do like in Star Trek and create food from molecules? It may be a scientific utopia, but I believe that the religious utopia found in the prophet Isaiah will come true with the help of science under wise counsel. Here fellow Youtubers, read this old and beautiful prophesy, that one day can be accomplish if humans use their intelligence with wisdom. With the knowledge of all things on earth we can bring back balance in Nature. All in all, utopia for utopia, all humans with a heart and wisdom seek the same truth. Read this old beautiful prophesy:

    Isaiah 11:1-10 New International Version (NIV)

    The Branch From Jesse
    11 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
    2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
    3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
    He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
    or decide by what he hears with his ears;
    4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
    with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
    He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
    with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
    5 Righteousness will be his belt
    and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
    6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
    the leopard will lie down with the goat,
    the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;
    and a little child will lead them.
    7 The cow will feed with the bear,
    their young will lie down together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
    8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
    and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
    9 They will neither harm nor destroy
    on all my holy mountain,
    for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.
    10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

  32. Bill I'm so pleased to hear you are leaning towards a sustainable diet. You have a lot of influence and I really hope you will bring this issue further into the public consciousness. I ate meat for the first 39 years of my life and quitting was not as hard as I thought it would be. You can do it Bill!

  33. I think it really boils down to this question. Is 5 mins worth of pleasure worth the death of humanity?

  34. Why does he say things like "I think" such and such. Her question is based on conclusions drawn from two different scientific bodies. I'm curious why he didn't review both the sources and offer his opinion on the differences in the numbers from the two. Instead, he misunderstood her as asking why numbers in a documentary she saw differ from a study and offered conjecture.

  35. Recent studies show that mixing a small amount of seaweed in the cattle's feed reduces methane emissions up to 99%.

  36. After launching his Netflix show called: "Bill Nye Saves the World" and talking about science in the same sentence with "non-binary gender" and other utter crap (you can google the videos), this dude is DEAD to me. All that he says is NOW pure garbage. He sold out to the corrupted and the mentally ill (which some of u living in USA call them "libtards") and can no longer be trusted. Im sad to say that this dude is now TRASH, FAKE and utter CANCER!

  37. this video makes it sound like methane emissions are the only reason why mass livestock breeding is negatively affecting the environment. but that's not true. for instance, it also wastes ridiculous amounts of fresh water and is the main contributor to rain forest logging. furthermore, it pollutes our rivers and eventually oceans. and of course let's not talk about the fact that it is animal cruelty on a massive scale… that would be inconvenient.

    agriculture is by far the main cause of climate change and loss of bio diversity.
    it's a problem much bigger than the silly social squabbles receiving all the politicians attention.

  38. Hey bill. Why don’t you eat your own shit? Methane is less of a trapper then even co2. Do some fucking research turkey brain!

  39. We could sew your mouth shut and we'd stop alot of hot air that way. Climate change is a natural process of the third stone from the sun.

  40. Reducing Oxygen is the answer, less animals, less plants, less humans would make the world a better place for all the remaining creatures.

  41. It's also worth mentioning that Big AG is the most water intensive industry. Animal agriculture water consumption ranges from 34-76 trillion gallons annually. #veganfortheanimals #veganfortheplanet #veganforthefuture

  42. Farmers need to stop messing with the food they feed cattle. Hint. Hint. Hint. If the cattle methane is a problem by the change of their food. Don’t mess with it. The cattle need to eat grass as they were designed to not anything else. So I just need to stop altering or messing with them.

  43. How about the millions of Bison that use to roam the prairie you idiots ! Nye doesn't have any common sense ,and I'm sure he's paid by the liberals to spread the global warming hoax ! I relish the day that he debates Dr. Kent Hovind on the global warming and evolution hoax !

  44. Bill Lie the fake science guy.
    The real pollution comes from your mouth and contaminates the minds of children. What a terrible, err, evil thing to do. Deliberately lie to children for your own financial gain. You're such a scumbag!
    Children: please don't listen to this guy. He is like the evil stranger begging you to take his candy. Use your heads. He's trying to take advantage of the foolishness that comes with childhood.
    He isn't even a scientist. He's a undergraduate in mechanical engineering.

  45. Sorry humanity. I just farted. I apologise just to be on the safe side. Because obviously someone has to be responsible for blowing the final fart which leads to the uncontrollable, catastrophic cascade of events to unfold. I now pray that I didn't cause the end of the world.
    Sorry everyone. Please forgive me.

  46. Mic the Vegan handled the question of the discrepancy really well. He does a great job in general of digging deep into the literature and analyzing questions. He also has a good response to Bill's idea of waiting for scientists to breed cows that don't fart methane:

  47. Yo Im a vegan teen and at school we had an argument about climate change and this one girl said that it doesn't even exist, that its just there so we can get scared. And many believe that the number one cause is gas and transportation which there not wrong but if you learn the truth eating animals and raising animals is the number one cause of global warming.

  48. Livestock is contributing less than 2% for climate change. This article addressees the question of the little girl on why the FAO and the other source are differ. Actually, the FAO corrected the statement that animal agriculture is the main contributor to the problem.

  49. Bill, there is evidence that shows Forest existed in areas glaciers cover, those glaciers have melted revealing the tree stumps how do we know that this is not a normal phase the earth goes through? What evidence do you have against it not being a result of the sun? a phase when the Suns activity intensifies or decreases? During a "hot" phase you would expect more wild fires, adding c02 to the atmosphere. Do ice cores not show this? Can electromagnetic energy from our sun and earth contribute to this natural cycle? You really don't have a very good argument supporting this not being a natural cycle.

  50. Nye preaches himself evolved from monkeys so of course he has a head as full of stupitiies as AOC's.
    But Hitler defeated Cow Flatulence:

  51. Instead of filtering your nutrients through a cows body, how bout just eat the plants yourself. Does nobody take in how disgusting it really is…?
    And don’t get me started on cheese 🤢

  52. I'm barbecuing Ribeyes tonight I can't wait. You can keep your rabbit food and you're global warming hoax. Bill Nye the sexual pervertand a BS degree in mechanical engineering don't make you a scientist and done make you a meteorologist he's one sick weirdo.

  53. Changing my diet based on what climate researchers say?!?!
    This would be like altering my exercise routine based on advice from my hair stylist.

  54. Ok. But is it possible to assume that grass that rots all by itself on the ground also emits greenhouse gases?? If so, What I would like to know in that case is what the ratio between, let's say 100kg of grass fermenting in a cows belly, compared to 100kg of grass rotting all by itself on the fround. Anyone knows the answer to that?

    Could we also assume that also a vegan diet generates greenhouse gases from plant waste in landfills etc. In that case, what is the ratio between greenhouse gases released between a locally produced meat based diet compaired to a globally produced plant based diet, given that all input numbers are brought to the table.

  55. vegan hypocrites, you spend swallowing beans, lentils and fiber and
    blame the cows for producing methane, and other gases, based on these reasons
    the veganism should be prohibited for ecological reasons

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