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Milk will drive methane emissions in India

Abstract

Livestock is a significant contributor to global anthropogenic emissions of methane, a short-lived greenhouse gas that is responsible for about 20% of the warming induced by greenhouse gases since pre-industrial times. India is a major contributor to these emissions, and its demand for livestock products is continually increasing in response to both growth in incomes and in population. We estimate methane emissions from livestock in India by estimating the demand for milk and milk products using countrywide representative consumption data over the period 1983–2012. We find that the average annual growth rate of methane emissions from dairy cattle is about twice as large (2.4%) as current estimates that do not take into account the economic factors that influence livestock demand. The difference in growth rates translates to an almost 40% difference in forecasted emissions from dairy cattle by 2050. Our findings suggest that, in a rapidly changing economic environment, current forecasts of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock may inaccurately estimate emissions since they fail to consider the economics governing it. We also estimate emissions under different scenarios, in terms of milk price trajectories and livestock composition. The changes in price do not alter our results significantly but the transition to crossbred animals in livestock drastically reduces future methane emissions from milk production.

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Acknowledgments

We thank E. Somanathan, Jeffrey Vincent, and Parikshit Ghosh, Martino Pelli, as well as seminar participants, at the Indian Statistical Institute Delhi, UQAM, University of Gothenburg, and participants at conferences at the 6th World Congress of Environmental and Resource Economics (WCERE) in Gothenburg, 2nd Annual Workshop of the Centre for Research on the Economics of Climate, Food, Energy and Environment in Ranthambore for useful comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ridhima Gupta.

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Gupta, R., Dasgupta, A. Milk will drive methane emissions in India. Climatic Change 161, 653–664 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-020-02715-4

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Keywords

  • Milk
  • Enteric fermentation
  • Methane
  • Global warming
  • Demand system estimation
  • Growth rate of emissions