Livestock play an important role in carbon cycling through consumption of biomass and emissions of methane. Recent research suggests that existing bottom-up inventories of livestock methane emissions in the US, such as those made using 2006 IPCC Tier 1 livestock emissions factors, are too low. This may be due to outdated information used to develop these emissions factors. In this study, we update information for cattle and swine by region, based on reported recent changes in animal body mass, feed quality and quantity, milk productivity, and management of animals and manure. We then use this updated information to calculate new livestock methane emissions factors for enteric fermentation in cattle, and for manure management in cattle and swine.
Using the new emissions factors, we estimate global livestock emissions of 119.1 ± 18.2 Tg methane in 2011; this quantity is 11% greater than that obtained using the IPCC 2006 emissions factors, encompassing an 8.4% increase in enteric fermentation methane, a 36.7% increase in manure management methane, and notable variability among regions and sources. For example, revised manure management methane emissions for 2011 in the US increased by 71.8%. For years through 2013, we present (a) annual livestock methane emissions, (b) complete annual livestock carbon budgets, including carbon dioxide emissions, and (c) spatial distributions of livestock methane and other carbon fluxes, downscaled to 0.05 × 0.05 degree resolution.
Our revised bottom-up estimates of global livestock methane emissions are comparable to recently reported top-down global estimates for recent years, and account for a significant part of the increase in annual methane emissions since 2007. Our results suggest that livestock methane emissions, while not the dominant overall source of global methane emissions, may be a major contributor to the observed annual emissions increases over the 2000s to 2010s. Differences at regional and local scales may help distinguish livestock methane emissions from those of other sectors in future top-down studies. The revised estimates allow improved reconciliation of top-down and bottom-up estimates of methane emissions, will facilitate the development and evaluation of Earth system models, and provide consistent regional and global Tier 1 estimates for environmental assessments.