According to GatesNotes.com:

If all the cattle in the world joined together to start their own country, they would rank behind only China and the United States in greenhouse gas emissions. But they’d have some competition from the cement industry, which also emits more than India (the country currently ranked 3rd).

Is the above statistic true?

  • If all the cattle in the world would join together, then the cattle would not longer be emitting in their original countries of origin (USA, Brazil, etc), lowering their total emissions significantly. Would them ranking ahead and behind certain countries reflect those countries' emissions, minus cows, or it would be that ranked-equivalent for the current nations emissions levels, with their nationally-affiliated bovine contribution included? Oct 29, 2018 at 21:40
  • @PoloHoleSet emissions levels should be taken in accordance to modern day emissions, not emissions-cows. Oct 29, 2018 at 21:43
  • Okay, thanks, so them forming a bovine splinter-nation (author's analogy, not yours, I know) overly complicates the picture, as opposed to just saying they produce as much emissions, together, as all but two nations. Still pretty complicated, with how pastures do or don't sequester carbon, depending on how much they get grazed. Should be interesting! Oct 29, 2018 at 21:47
  • Next we can compute where termites would rank.
    – GEdgar
    Oct 30, 2018 at 0:47

1 Answer 1



ClimateWatchData provide collated estimates of Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Region.

Graph of emissions by region over time

From the 2014 figures, we can see China is the highest, USA second. In third place they have the European Union, which isn't a country. India is in third place for countries.

USA is over 6 Gt per year. India is below 4 GT per year.

The Food and Agricultura Organization of the United Nations provide estimates of greenhouse gas emissions for livestock.

Cattle are the main contributor to the sector's emissions with about 5.0 gigatonnes CO2-eq, which represents about 62 percent of sector's emissions.

The infographic below is more precise: 5,024 million tonnes.

No error bars are given, but cattle are quite neatly between the USA and India (or The EU, if you prefer to include them).

It is reasonable to say that, globally, cattle emit more greenhouse gases (in CO2-equivalent units) than all the emissions (including cattle) from the third-highest emitting country.

  • To give a full answer it would also be useful to compute how many emissions would be caused by humans having to consume plant food to substitute the lack of bovine meat. Oct 30, 2018 at 2:43
  • 6
    @JonathanReez: That wasn't part of the question. It is far more complicated and speculative.
    – Oddthinking
    Oct 30, 2018 at 2:48
  • 2
    Wait a second—If cows joined together to form their own country, then they wouldn't be a part of their previous countries. The US has a lot of cows, but would it be enough that it would rank even lower than the new cow country?
    – Laurel
    Oct 30, 2018 at 3:28
  • 4
    @Laurel: See comments on the question. I agree that the claim intended the cows to be included in the source country. I have been explicit about that in the answer to avoid confusion. (The claim is intended as an illustration of how much methane cattle produces, not a literal analysis of a hypothetical geopolitical upsurge. After all, what region are the cows taking over? Do we include the termites in that region? That way lies science fiction.)
    – Oddthinking
    Oct 30, 2018 at 4:18
  • For a rough estimation on "what if the cows no longer contribute to their previous country", the Wikipedia page has values for "which countries have how much cattle". Assuming each cattle "emits" equally: USA, China, and Cowtopia wouldn't change position but India might not be 4th anymore. Oct 30, 2018 at 15:43

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