Grist Wonders, Is Breaking Wind Bad For Climate Change?

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.

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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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