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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Emerging Science Note/It’s a Gas

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth s Jennifer Chu reports on a method of cutting down methane from livestock.


CURWOOD: Just ahead- atomic waste and the presidential election. How the fight over Yucca Mountain could tip the balance in the swing state of Nevada. First, this Note on Emerging Science from Jennifer Chu.


CHU: Australian scientists are taking a new approach to combating global warming: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, one belch at a time. If it all sounds like a bunch of hot air, well, it is. Sheep and cattle are plentiful in Australia, and they expel large amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, as part of their natural digestive processes. Such “natural” gaseous effusions account for one-fifth of the global output of methane. Methane is second only to carbon dioxide in its contribution to global warming.

But scientists at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization have taken a big step toward curbing the environmental damage caused by these farm animals. The Australians have developed a vaccine against three species of microbes that produce methane in sheeps’ stomachs. A recent test of the vaccine shows some promise: sheep that received two injections in a 13-hour period emitted eight percent less methane than the control group.

The scientists note that their vaccine is only a prototype but they’re working to develop a formula against more of the microbes—ultimately, reducing livestock methane emission even further. And that’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science, I’m Jennifer Chu.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to NPR’s Living on Earth.

ANNOUNCER: Support for NPR comes from NPR stations and Ford, presenting the Escape hybrid, whose full hybrid technology allows it to run on gas or electric power. Full hybrid technology details at ford vehicles dot com. The Noyce Foundation, dedicated to improving math and science instruction from Kindergarten through grade 12. The Annenburg fund for excellence in communications and education. And the Kellogg foundation, helping people help themselves by investing in individuals, their families and their communities. On the Web at w-k-k-f dot org. This is NPR, National Public Radio.

[MUSIC: Laika and the Cosmonauts “Note Crisis” INSTRUMENTS OF TERROR (Upstart – 1993)]



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