Gassy Cows Are Warming The Planet, And They’re Here To Stay

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/04/11/301794415/gassy-cows-are-warming-the-planet-and-theyre-here-to-stay?ft=3&f=1001%2c1003%2c1004%2c1090

April 12, 2014 5:06 AM ET

Correction April 12, 2014

An earlier version of this story said that the methane emissions associated with livestock come from their farts. In fact, most of those methane emissions come from belches.

 

These guys are gassy, and their emissions are contributing to global warming.

These guys are gassy, and their emissions are contributing to global warming.

Sorry to ruin your appetite, but it’s time to talk about cow belches.

Humans the world over are eating meat and drinking milk — some of us a little less, some of us a lot more, than years past. Farmers are bringing more and more cows into the world to meet demand, and with them escapes more methane into the atmosphere.

In 2011, methane from livestock accounted for 39 percent of all the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, according to a report that United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization released Friday. That’s more than synthetic fertilizer or deforestation. Methane from livestock rose 11 percent between 2001 and 2011.

The bulk of the emissions — 55 percent — came from beef cattle. Dairy cows, buffalo, sheep and goats accounted for the rest.

Those emissions, combined with emissions from all the other sectors of food production, aren’t likely to go down anytime soon. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, forestry and fishing have doubled over the past 50 years, according to the report. Emissions could go up by 30 percent by 2050.

All this talk about cow belches might make you want to give up meat. So should we all become vegetarians? Asking everyone to reduce their meat consumption isn’t a very practical strategy, says Francesco Tubiello, a natural resources officer for the FAO.

The demand for meat is rising most quickly in developing countries. And since the diets of many in the developing world are short on protein and calories, the poorest of them could really benefit from more meat production. Plus, “for many developing countries, agriculture is their main economic sector,” Tubiello tells The Salt.

Global meat consumption is likely to keep going up over the next 30 years, Tubiello says. (Though, as many have argued, it does make sense for the affluent people of the world who currently over-consume meat to cut back.) But the FAO says the best way to reduce agriculture’s contribution to global warming is to tackle other sources of emissions.

For example, we could improve how efficiently we use agricultural land. “There are many ways to improve the productivity of land,” Tubiello says, like increasing crop yields. That means we need to find more ways to use less land to make the same amount of food.

Encouraging farmers to use fertilizers more judiciously would also help. When farmers spray their fields with nitrogen fertilizer, microbes in the soil convert it to nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas. “A lot of the fertilizer is not used efficiently,” Tubiello says.

The FAO report found that fertilizers accounted 14 percent of agricultural emissions in 2011. And the amount emissions from fertilizers has risen 37 percent since 2001.

Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that raising livestock takes a huge toll on the environment. But, Tubiello says, there are ways to mitigate the environmental impact of raising livestock without doing away with meat altogether.

For example, we could also try to switch up what we feed cows. Having cows graze on grass isn’t a very efficient use of land, as the grass makes for smaller animals, who end up emitting more greenhouse gases per pound of meat produced, than animals raised on grain.

However, corn and soy that most cows eat makes them especially gassy, so feeding them alfalfa and supplements could reduce how much they belch. More research on how to optimize what we feed livestock could help farmers reduce emissions.

But even if we can’t control how much cows belch, we can control what we do with their poop. When nitrogen in livestock manure and urine is also broken down into nitrous oxide — and emissions from manure accounted for 16 percent of agricultural emissions in 2011, according to the FAO. Managing all that manure — or even reusing it as fuel, is one way to reduce emissions.

The American Dream turns into a Global Nightmare

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — The American Dream? Now a Global Nightmare? A ticking time bomb, a lethal virus spreading worldwide, could destroy the entire world, backfire, take down America and capitalism? Yes.

But, first, a little history: Five years ago Bill Gates and his Billionaires Club asked that question. But gave up. Here’s why.

Gates’ billionaires essentially asked: What do you think is the single, biggest ticking time bomb that will eventually take down global economies? The absolutely biggest one with a trigger mechanism that can ignite, set off a nuclear chain reaction that will throw a permanent wrench in global economic growth, ending capitalism, potentially destroying modern civilization as we know it.

Yes, that one. The one that — if not solved soon — renders all efforts to solve all other problems in the world irrelevant, futile and virtually impossible ever to solve. Yes, that one. What is the “big one?” Several alternative predictions have also been reported:

* Global wars? Pentagon warns warfare will define human life by 2020.

* Big Oil? Bill McKibben’s “End of Nature” prediction could ignite soon.

* Capitalism? Many progressives see capitalism destroying democracy.

* Inequality? Pope says inequality is the root of all social problems.

* Climate warming? 2,000 UN scientists warn humans are killing Earth.

* Technology? Robert Gordon says we can’t stop GDP falling to 1%.

Biggest risk? Guess again: Not warfare … not the inequality… not energy resource depletion … not global warming … not out-of-control capitalists … yes, all are important, all part of the domino effect, the chain reaction as the global clock winds down to zero.

Yes, five years ago the one-percenters thought they knew. Bill Gates and his Billionaires Club were certain, unanimous. Gates had brought together billionaire philanthropists in a supersecret meeting in Manhattan about the time the market last bottomed. Included: Buffett, Rockefeller, Soros, Bloomberg, Turner, Oprah and others. The London Times Online reported that during the afternoon session each spoke about their favorite charities.

Then, the big question: What was the underlying, core problem driving all their interests? The world’s biggest time-bomb?

Overpopulation said the billionaires. Too many people on Planet Earth.

True, the United Nations predicts that by 2050 global population will explode by as much as 40%, from more than 7 billion today to 10 billion. Overcrowding. Demanding. But as Scientific American repeatedly warns in special issues, population is “the most overlooked and essential strategy for achieving long-term balance with the environment.” The “third-rail” for politicians, ignored by the world’s political leaders.

Three delusions: the American Dream mutates into Global Nightmare

But there’s an even bigger problem that will peak and backfire as the American Dream goes viral. For a couple generations, spread by the economics of globalization, the American Dream has been exported, spreading the capitalism virus worldwide, accelerating global GDP growth, infecting every nation and individual with their own mind-set imbedded in the promise of the “perpetual prosperity” inherent in the American Dream.

The effect? Today capitalism, globalization, the new Global Dream, the virus is rapidly spreading, mesmerizing the brains of everyone … mass-producing new billionaires … global lists on Forbes, Bloomberg and CNBC report an explosion from 322 billionaires in 2000 to 1,847 in 2014… China now has 358 billionaires … Africa has 29, adding nine last year … today, 85 of the world’s richest billionaires make more that the 3.5 billion in the bottom half … Credit Suisse predicts 11 trillionaire families in the world by 2100.

But three self-destructive delusions dominate today’s billionaires:

1. Delusion 1: Perpetual economic growth on planet of limited resources

The Super Rich are trapped a classic delusion now ingrained in the collective unconscious of the world. They have ingested a self-destructive gene. They believe the same capitalism ideology that made them superrich will continue indefinitely, that economic growth is perpetual, even on a planet of clearly limited resources. This delusion is rampant in Exxon Mobil and the energy industries as they race ahead with an unsustainable business model that’s rapidly depleting nonreplaceable natural resources.

2. Delusion 2: New technologies will replace disappearing resources

The club of billionaires believes technology will overcome the limitations of resources and thus fuel the perpetual economic growth essential to create more and more billionaires, that some of this eternal prosperity will also trickle down to the world’s poorest 3.5 billion people. Economist Robert Gordon refutes that assumption in his rhetorical National Business Research Institute piece “Is U.S. Economic Growth Over?” Silicon Valley technology will never overcome all the headwinds reflected by today’s raging self-destructive political, economic and religious conflicts.

3. Delusion 3: Mutant Capitalists do not need to share the future

The new billionaires in America and worldwide have forgotten that the same capitalism that fueled the American Dream since 1776, that created the democracy supporting their accumulated billions, was a legacy that, in the past, also meant hope for the masses of Americans and all nations, that everyone, no matter how poor, had equal opportunities.

Unfortunately, as Jack Bogle warns, while spreading the American Dream we’re also a spreading a new Mutant Capitalism, a virus infecting superrich billionaires: Further widening the inequality gap, stifling opportunities for most Americans and people worldwide, hoarding the power, wealth and opportunities for those already in the top one percent, already listed among global billionaires.

Billions are in denial of their self-destructive delusions: “One of the disturbing facts of history is that so many civilizations collapse,” warns Jared Diamond, an evolutionary biologist, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.” Many “civilizations share a sharp curve of decline. Indeed, a society’s demise may begin only a decade or two after it reaches its peak population, wealth and power.”

Harvard financial historian Niall Ferguson, author of “Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire,” was more dramatic, hard-hitting, immediate: The world will be caught by surprise, unprepared. The coming collapse will “accelerate suddenly, like a sports car … like a thief in the night.” Crashing. Shocking us wide awake.

Paradox of Prosperity: the Global Dream will also peak, collapse

Today we’re all being misled by these three delusions. As Diamond warns: “There are ‘optimists’ who argue that the world could support double its human population.” But he adds, they “consider only the increase in human numbers and not average increase in per-capita impact. But I have not heard anyone who seriously argues that the world could support 12 times it’s current impact.” But that’s exactly what happens with “all Third World inhabitants adopting First World standards.”

Every nation in the world has its own version of the American Dream, the new Global Dream. Everyone wants prosperity, success, opportunity. More is never enough, either individually or nationally. Not just 310 million Americans, but 7.3 billion people worldwide are demanding more, more … on a finite planet with dwindling natural resources, as economist Michael Klare warns in his book “The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for World’s Last Resources.”

Bottom line: As the world population explodes 40% in the next generation, “what really counts,” says Diamond, “is not the number of people alone, but their impact on the environment, the per-capita impact.” First World citizens “consume 32 times more resources such as fossil fuels, and put out 32 times more waste, than do the inhabitants of the Third World.” \

And it’s delusional to think this trend will disappear. It will get worse because billionaires are in massive denial about their delusions … the self-destructive Global Dream will continue … until a catastrophic black swan shocks us awake.

10259757_624111207644570_6814450835475411667_n

Beasts Out of Tune

[I guess I've always know humans were bad for the planet. I wrote this back in 1979.]

We’ve broken all
of Mother Nature’s laws.
In her perfection                                                                       
we create the flaws.
We kick her, ungrateful,
like a child in the womb.

We could see the truth,
but avert our eyes.
Rule her like gods,
living shallow lives
on our self-appointed throne
we’re the beasts out of tune.

Out of tune,
nearly out of room.
Multiplying fast,
We’ll have to face Her soon.

She doesn’t complain
when we kick in the womb,
when we grow and grow
Take up so much room.
Her maternal love is our sanctuary.

But unless we love her in return
(as a spoiled child,
we must mature)
the kicks may cause her to miscarry.

Beasts out of tune,
the love must come soon.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2014. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2014. All Rights Reserved

Good News for the Earth: Humans Will Soon Be Extinct

http://www.eutimes.net/2010/06/human-race-will-be-extinct-within-100-years-claims-leading-scientist/

    on    Jun 21st, 2010

As the scientist who helped eradicate smallpox he certainly know a thing or two about extinction.

And now Professor Frank Fenner, emeritus professor of microbiology at the Australian National University, has predicted that the human race will be extinct within the next 100 years.

He has claimed that the human race will be unable to survive a population explosion and ‘unbridled consumption.’

Fenner told The Australian newspaper that ‘homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years.’

‘A lot of other animals will, too,’ he added.

‘It’s an irreversible situation. I think it’s too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off.’

Since humans entered an unofficial scientific period known as the Anthropocene – the time since industrialisation – we have had an effect on the planet that rivals any ice age or comet impact, he said.

Fenner, 95, has won awards for his work in helping eradicate the variola virus that causes smallpox and has written or co-written 22 books.

He announced the eradication of the disease to the World Health Assembly in 1980 and it is still regarded as one of the World Health Organisation’s greatest achievements.

He was also heavily involved in helping to control Australia’s myxomatosis problem in rabbits.

Last year official UN figures estimated that the world’s population is currently 6.8 billion. It is predicted to exceed seven billion by the end of 2011.

Fenner blames the onset of climate change for the human race’s imminent demise.

He said: ‘We’ll undergo the same fate as the people on Easter Island.

‘Climate change is just at the very beginning. But we’re seeing remarkable changes in the weather already.’

‘The Aborigines showed that without science and the production of carbon dioxide and global warming, they could survive for 40,000 or 50,000 years.

‘But the world can’t. The human species is likely to go the same way as many of the species that we’ve seen disappear.’

A map of the world from an atlas which concentrates on population rather than land mass released last year. The Earth’s population is due to hit 7bn by next year

Retired professor Stephen Boyden, a colleague of Professor Fenner, said that while there was deep pessimism among some ecologists, others had a more optimistic view.

‘Frank may well be right, but some of us still harbour the hope that there will come about an awareness of the situation and, as a result the revolutionary changes necessary to achieve ecological sustainability.’

Simon Ross, the vice-chairman of the Optimum Population Trust, said: ‘Mankind is facing real challenges including climate change, loss of bio-diversity and unprecedented growth in population.’

Professor Fenner’s chilling prediction echoes recent comments by Prince Charles who last week warned of ‘monumental problems’ if the world’s population continues to grow at such a rapid pace.

And it comes after Professor Nicholas Boyle of Cambridge University said that a ‘Doomsday’ moment will take place in 2014 – and will determine whether the 21st century is full of violence and poverty or will be peaceful and prosperous.

in the last 500 years there has been a cataclysmic ‘Great Event’ of international significance at the start of each century, he claimed.

In 2006 another esteemed academic, Professor James Lovelock, warned that the world’s population may sink as low as 500 million over the next century due to global warming.

He claimed that any attempts to tackle climate change will not be able to solve the problem, merely buy us time.

Source

Warm Alaskan Winter May Pose Problems for Iditarod Dog Sled Race

http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/warm-alaska-winter-may-present/23749451
By Kristen Rodman, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
February 27, 2014; 4:25 PM
Alaska’s most popular sporting [sic] event, the Iditarod Sled Dog Race is set to begin March 1, 2014. However, due to the milder-than-normal weather that has depleted snowpack this winter this winter, mushers may encounter some setbacks.

Kicking off the race, the annual ceremonial start will take place in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, March 1, 2014. The actual start to the competition will be on Sunday afternoon, March 2, 2014, in Willow, despite recent discussions.

Due to the lack of snowcover thus far this winter, race organizers considered moving the race start from Willow to Fairbanks, according to an Alaska Public Media  article. However, a construction company offered to help fix the trail with specialized equipment, and as a result, the race will stick to its traditional route through the Rainy Pass of the Alaska Range.

Musher Michelle Phillips of Tagish, Yukon Territory, Canada, makes the final push on the Bering Sea ice for the finish line a few miles outside Nome, Alaska, on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

“It’s been a very unusual winter up across Alaska,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jack Boston said. “The problem has been frequent mild days, which have been knocking down the snowcover.”

In January, Anchorage’s average temperature was 12 F above normal, causing the city’s snowcover to melt. Farther northwest in Nome, the temperature soared to a record-breaking high on Jan. 27, 2014, hitting 50 F for the first time ever during the winter season. Nome’s average temperature for January was 16 F above normal.

Despite the region’s massive winter warmup, many areas along the path of the race have received near-normal snowfall. So far this winter, Anchorage has received 53.7 inches of snow, or 90 percent of the normal snowfall, while Nome has accumulated 53.9 inches, or 96 percent of the normal snowfall.

As nearly 70 mushers get ready to make the 1,000-mile, multiple-day journey from Willow to Nome, the weather does not seem like it is going to cooperate this year but not because of its normal severity. Typically, the troublesome weather conditions that the race faces include winter storms, blizzards, high winds and subzero temperatures.

“It looks like a mild start to the Iditarod,” AccuWeather Long-Range Forecast Meteorologist Jason Nicholls said. “It looks like there can be a little snow on the ground around March 5, 2014, but it should not amount to much more than a few inches.”

Not All Winter Sports Negatively Impacted by Climate Change…

…THAT IS, IF YOU CONSIDER KILLING RABBITS A “SPORT”!!!

The USA Today ran an article yesterday by U.S. Olympic cross country skier, Andrew Newell, entitled, Climate Change Impacts Winter Sports.” Newel tells us, “As a skier, my life revolves around winter and being outside. Years spent training have not only honed my skills, but also shown me the negative impacts of climate change first-hand. There have been countless times in the past 10 years when our early season competitions have been delayed or canceled due to lack of snow, or our spring and summer training camps disrupted due to erratic weather or insufficient snowpack. It’s no coincidence then that the last decade was also the hottest decade ever recorded…

“Even the most reliable snowfall areas have seen a decrease in storms and precipitation. In the last few seasons, Scandinavian countries such as Finland, Norway and Sweden, which host world cup ski events in November and December, have had to rely upon man-made snow and injected ice for races. Many Nordic athletes, myself included, train on glaciers during the summer months.DSC_0098

“I’ve witnessed the visible recession of off season ski destinations such as Eagle Glacier in Alaska and the Dachstein Glacier in Austria in the last decade. Warming temperatures melting snow has meant in recent years, summer skiing conditions on glaciers have become too unstable to train on. Some countries have resorted to skiing indoors in artificial ski tunnels due to unpredictable conditions.

‘The conditions in Sochi are no exception. The organizers of these Winter Games ran into similar problems and had to go to extreme and unorthodox means to supply the snow necessary to hold high-level competitions. Workers in Russia have been stockpiling nearly 16 million cubic feet of snow and adding a special kind of salt to prevent melting.”

The article goes on: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/02/11/andrew-newell-olympics-global-warming/5370379/  and in many ways parallels an early post of mine about the impacts of climate change on skiing, “In Case You Haven’t Noticed, Global Warming is Real.”  http://exposingthebiggame.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/in-case-you-havent-noticed-yet-global-warming-is-real/

imagesQB1DEJITBut there’s one winter “sport” (if it can be called that) that isn’t effected by a lack of snow–bunny blasting. As Utah’s Daily Herald claims, “Rabbit hunting offers chance for winter sport” reports, “Regulations allow each hunter with a license to kill up to 10 cottontails.” [per day, no doubt.] And it also quotes Mark Zornes, who boasts, “This is what bunny hunting is like,” he said. “We rarely see people doing this, and this is the most fun kind of hunting. It’s also a great kid activity.”

So, forget snow sports, winter can be yet another chance to kill something.

In Case You Haven’t Noticed Yet, Global Warming Is Real

If you’re one of the lucky few who live somewhere as yet relatively unaffected by climateunderwear change, or you spend all your time indoors listening to Rush Limbaugh and watching Donald Trump on Fox News, I’m here to tell you, global warming is real.

It may be hard to accept that the Earth’s overall temperature is rapidly warming up if your state has just experienced a polar vortex, but if you live in California or the Pacific Northwest you know all too well the drastic effect climate change is having on winter weather—especially if you’re a skier like me.

As an avid powder skier I’ve been closely following the snow reports for the mountains in the western United States and I’m seeing a depressing trend toward shallower snow packs and away from our normal winter wonderland.

Why is this happening? As the San Jose Mercury News reported it, “Meteorologists have fixed their attention on the scientific phenomenon they say is to blame for the emerging drought: a vast zone of high pressure in the atmosphere off the West Coast, nearly four miles high and 2,000 miles long, so stubborn that one researcher [Swain] has dubbed it the ‘Ridiculously Resilient Ridge.’ Like a brick wall, the mass of high pressure air has been blocking Pacific winter storms from coming ashore in California, deflecting them up into Alaska and British Columbia, even delivering rain and cold weather to the East Coast.” Much to the dismay of skiers, this stubborn high pressure ridge is pushing the jet stream, and our winter moisture, along a much more northerly track.

Ok, but what does this, and the lack of winter storms (for us here in the West) have to do with global warming? In an article in ThinkProgress.org, “Leading Scientists Explain How Climate Change Is Worsening California’s Epic Drought,” we learn that “Beyond the expansion and drying of the subtropics predicted by climate models, some climatologists have found in their research evidence that the stunning decline in Arctic sea ice would also drive western drought — by shifting storm tracks…Scientists say this anomaly looks very much like what the models predicted as sea ice declined. The storm track response also looks very similar with correspondingly similar impacts on precipitation (reduced rainfall in CA, increased precipitation in SE Alaska).”

In addition to California’s record-breaking drought and water rationing, you probably heard on the national news about their destructive January brush fires. But even more shocking than those unseasonable fires are a recent pair of 300 acre wildfires on the normally soggy North Oregon Coast, which burned nearly to the beach. January fires in the Pacific Northwest rain forest are almost unheard of, as anyone who has tried to light a campfire in winter there will attest. In an article about the forest fires, The Daily Astorian (North Oregon Coast ’s local paper) reported that the National Weather Service in Portland issued a “red flag” warning in response to conditions (strong dry east winds and humidity as low as 25%) that can contribute to wildfires burning out of control. Instead of the 25% humidity, coastal Oregon humidity on a winter’s day should be more like 125%.

Whether you choose to “believe in” global warming or not, I urge any of you enjoying this mild, dry winter weather to please think snow!

DSC_0098

The Guns of Mid-Winter

When I wrote my book, Exposing the Big Game, its subtitle, Living Targets of a Dying Sport, was appropriate. But like so many things in this rapidly changing world, by the time the book came out, that subtitle was becoming obsolete. Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, the sport of blasting birds, murdering deer, culling coyotes and plunking at prairie dogs—in a word, hunting—is seeing a seemingly inexplicable resurgence.

Lately we’re seeing longer hunting seasons on everything from elk to geese to wolves, with more new or expanded “specialty” hunts like archery, crossbow, spear (and probably soon, poison blow gun) in states across the country, than at any time in recent memory. Meanwhile, more Americans are taking up arms against the animals and wearing so much camo—the full-time fashion statement of the cruel and unusual—that it’s starting to look ordinary and even, yuppified.

So, when did cruel become the new cool and evil the new everyday? Are the recruiting efforts of the Safari Club and the NRA finally striking a cord? Did the staged “reality” show “Survivor” lead to the absurdly popular thespian cable spin-offs like, “Call of the Wildman,” “Duck Dynasty” and a nasty host of others? Is “art” imitating life, or is life imitating “art?” Did the author of the Time Magazine article, “America’s Pest Problem: It’s Time to Cull the Herd,” ratchet up the call for even more animal extermination?

Whatever the reason, I don’t remember ever hearing so many shotguns and rifles blasting away during the last week of January. By the sound of the gunfire, coupled with the unseasonably dry and warm weather here in the Pacific Northwest, you’d swear it was early autumn.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2014. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2014. All Rights Reserved

Large carnivore decline puts humans at risk

http://www.nbcnews.com/science/cry-wolf-large-carnivore-decline-puts-humans-risk-study-says-2D11880999

copyrighted Hayden wolf walking

by John Roach

A few years after wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rockies in 1995, fifth-generation Montana rancher Rick Jarrett gave up on the parcel of federal land near Yellowstone National Park that he grazed for 20 years. The carnivores harassed his cattle so much that they stopped gaining weight. Skinny cattle don’t sell.

“It wasn’t worth being there anymore,” he told NBC News. To turn a profit, he now confines his livestock to several thousand acres on and around his ranch in Big Timber, where his cattle and sheep are free to pack on the pounds — for now. The wolves, he said, will eventually get there, too.

While Jarrett is bitter about having to live with wolves, such coexistence is increasingly necessary if the world hopes to reverse a downward spiral of its largest carnivores such as wolves as well as lions, tigers, and bears, according to a review study published Thursday in the journal Science.

As the carnivores decline, ecosystems and food chains that humans depend on for survival are unraveling and, in many cases, adding to the economic woes of everyone from farmers to ecotourism companies.

“We should be thinking of ourselves in the end because if enough important species go extinct and we lose enough ecosystem services and economic services, then humanity will suffer,” William Ripple, an ecologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis and the study’s lead author, told NBC News.

What to do? Ripple and 13 colleagues from around the world found that more than three quarters of Earth’s largest carnivores are in population declines. Most occupy only a fraction of their historic ranges and more than half are threatened with extinction.

 The paper’s main finding is familiar to wildlife conservationists — large carnivores are in trouble — but pays scant attention to the most important problem: “What are we going to do about it?” Craig Packer, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota who was not involved with the study, told NBC News.”I think that is a huge challenge.”

Finding solutions is complicated, Ripple noted. The study, he said, is meant to illustrate the plight of carnivores and what humans stand to lose if the creatures go extinct — information that could steer policy via, for example, a global committee focused on carnivore conservation.

In the paper, the researchers argue that humans are ethically obligated to conserve large carnivores — the animals have an intrinsic right to exist on planet Earth. They then back the argument with examples of the way the role carnivores play in the ecosystem help humans.

In Africa, for example, loss of leopards and lions has translated to an increase in baboon populations, which in turn are raiding farmers’ livestock and crops for food. “In extreme cases, the farm family needs to keep their children home to guard the crops instead of go to school,” Ripple said.

Other benefits of carnivores noted in the study include control of deer, elk, and moose populations, which in turn keep forest plants healthy for other critters, limit erosion, and enhance water quality. Parks full of wolves and bears also attract tourists, whose dollars boost local economies.

Wolf-specific tourism in Yellowstone National Park, the paper notes, brings in $22 to $48 million per year.

What’s more, the scientists add, regions where carnivores keep other animal populations in check are full of plants that soak up carbon from the atmosphere, helping to slow global climate change. Jarrett, the Montana rancher, doubted such arguments would foster better feelings toward wolves.

“Granted carbon sequestration is important,” he said, “but the benefit we are going to get from wolves … is so insignificant it isn’t even funny.”

Legitimate fears The reality, noted Packer, who is an expert on human-carnivore interactions and deeply involved in African lion conservation, is that humans naturally fear these animals, often for good reason.

“You cannot expect somebody living in rural Africa or rural Asia to risk being eaten by a lion or a tiger so that your moral sense is gratified back in California or Texas or New York,” he said. “Conservationists need to recognize that there are legitimate reasons why people want to get rid of these animals.”

To reduce human predation on lions, Packer advocates the controversial use of patrolled and maintained fences that serve as a physical barrier between people and wildlife.

Ultimately, he said, the conflict among humans about our relationship with carnivores comes down to emotion versus intellect. While arguments such as carnivores’ ability to buffer ecosystems against climate change are “interesting,” in the end, he said, emotion usually wins.

“You have to find ways that people feel safe and that people benefit economically.”

John Roach is a contributing writer for NBC News.