If you hate carbon emissions, the Australian Outback may seem like a paradise, unless you're a bit gassy, that is. According to a new study, the vast, sparsely populated Outback stores an incredible amount of carbon within its forests and grasslands, a whopping 9.7 billion tons of the stuff, in fact. As impressive as that is, researchers say the region could hold much, much more if certain measures were to be implemented, but there's a catch -- one calls for the culling of millions of feral animals just because they fart and burp.The study, undertaken by the Nature Conservancy and the Pew Environment Group, found that while nearly 10 billion tons of carbon are stored in the Outback ecosystem, it can actually hold around 1.3 billion more by 2050. To put that into perspective, the potential carbon storage is roughly the equivalent to taking 300 million cars off the road during that same period, reports News.com.au.
In order to tap into that storage capacity, the study suggests improving land management, reducing wildfires, regrowing cleared vegetation -- and killing off millions gassy animals, like feral pigs and camels.
Turns out, farting and burping critters are quite a problem. Barry Traill, a spokesman for Pews, explains:
When feral animals belch they release methane, a particularly noxious greenhouse gas, and every single camel or water buffalo releases the equivalent of around one ton of carbon dioxide each year.
When you've got hundreds of thousands, in some cases millions, of these feral animals, it's a very large amount of pollution each year.
While the report's findings seem to present a bit of a Catch-22 for environmentalists -- curb emissions at the cost of countless animal's lives -- Australia's Greens party seems up for the big kill. Senator Christine Milne sites an urgency "to make the changes needed to tap the huge potential that is there [in the Outback]."
Judging from policies in the past, Australians aren't too queasy when it comes to culling wildlife, namely when it comes to the continent's invasive species. Just last February, for example, it was announced that officials would begin dealing with a pesky camel overpopulation problem by feeding the feral animals to hungry crocodiles.
If Australia opts to consider the techniques suggested by this recent study to expand the Outback's carbon storage capacity, it will be interesting to see whether folks side with less emissions or if they'll decide that millions of farting and burping animals really aren't that bad. If the latter wins out, I imagine an entire generation of unruly children will take notice.